According to the Bloomberg Global Health Index, Spain is one of the healthiest countries in the world yet Spanish cuisine is often overlooked when discussing a Mediterranean diet.
A 2018 study in The New England Journal of Medicine, funded by the Spanish Ministry of Health, showed that the incidence of major cardiovascular events was 30 per cent lower among Spaniards following a Mediterranean diet rich in extra-virgin olive oil and nuts compared to a reduced-fat diet.
Dr Sushma Kumari, dietician, CARE Hospitals, said that the Mediterranean diet is often considered one of the healthiest dietary patterns due to its emphasis on whole, nutrient-dense foods and its potential to promote overall well-being.
Recently, a Spanish dietician talked about making the diet easy to follow through 6 steps. Alba Santaliestra told Insider, “It’s a combination of nutrition, physical activity levels, and also a social environment.”
We talked to Dr Kumari about the veracity of these tips and how they can be applied to our own diets.
Become your own bawarchi
A great way to avoid processed foods is to stick to your own cooking, said Santaliestra.
According to Kumari, cooking from scratch allows individuals to have better control over the ingredients they use, leading to a diet that is lower in additives, preservatives, and excessive salt and sugar. “This approach also promotes the consumption of fresh vegetables, fruits, and whole grains, which are key components of the Mediterranean diet.”
Ditch all oils other than olive oil
Olive oil exists as a main, healthy fat source in the Spanish version of the Med diet, Santaliestra said.
Olive oil is often considered a healthier oil choice than many others due to its composition of monounsaturated fats, particularly oleic acid. “These fats are considered heart-healthy and have been associated with a reduced risk of heart disease. Olive oil is also rich in antioxidants, such as polyphenols, which can help combat inflammation and oxidative stress in the body,” said Dr Kumari.
Plain salted nuts are the best
Santaliestra recommends nuts as a go-to snack in the mid-morning to mid-afternoon.
Snacking on plain nuts is advised in the Mediterranean diet because they are a good source of healthy fats, fiber, and protein, according to Kumari, who added that they can help satisfy hunger and provide sustained energy.
Make friends over meals
Building relationships over meals is an important aspect of the Mediterranean diet because it might help in reducing stress and promoting overall well-being, said Kumari.
She noted that strong social connections and a sense of community are associated with improved mental and emotional health. “Additionally, when people eat together, they tend to eat more slowly, savour their food, and pay more attention to portion sizes, which can help with mindful eating and weight management. The Mediterranean diet acknowledges that food is not just about nourishment but also about the enjoyment and the social connections it fosters.”
Veggies are your new BFFs
Santaliestra stressed that veggies are the key factor in what makes the Mediterranean Diet so successful.
Vary your protein sources
Spaniards, like many Mediterranean cultures, tend to vary their protein sources in their diets. This practice is important because it allows for a more balanced and diverse intake of essential nutrients.
According to Kumari, different protein sources also contribute different types of fats and micronutrients to the diet, promoting overall health and reducing the potential negative effects associated with excessive consumption of a single protein source.
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