“Best diet” lists love to laud it, and the scientific world keeps bestowing it with accolade after accolade,
The healthiest diet for your heart!
Your blood pressure will drop if you eat a Mediterranean diet!
You only need to consume foods like fresh fish, an abundance of veggies, a lot of olive oil, and (of course) great wine to achieve this.
I’m a nutritionist who promotes all of those advantages, but I also have a major issue with the Mediterranean Diet: it’s exclusive.
At the very least, the Mediterranean Diet is seen as exclusive—with a heavy emphasis on Greece, Spain, Italy, and France.
But there are also 18 other nations in the Mediterranean, and that is a huge but. But, the renowned “diet” that is hailed as “the greatest” rarely includes their cuisines, flavors, and cultures.
Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, and Egypt are just a few of the numerous nations in Northern Africa that border the Mediterranean Sea. The same is true for Israel, Syria, Lebanon, Turkey, and other Middle Eastern nations. Although many of these civilizations’ cuisines do have some similarities, the combinations, preparation techniques, flavors, and seasonings from the majority of these other nations are sometimes overlooked when the Mediterranean Diet is awarded the top prize.
The Mediterranean diet is not inclusive and has been idealized.
Maya Feller, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.N., a nutritionist with a practice in Brooklyn, concurs with me.
“Foods with loads of spice and heat, but also combining sweet and spice, are part of the Mediterranean Diet, which includes the 22 nations around the Mediterranean Sea in its truest sense “Feller declares. “There isn’t a single “diet” that applies to the entire Mediterranean area; the spicy Moroccan food has little in common with the lemon- and caper-infused southern Italian food. Instead, Mediterranean cooking focuses on what these cuisines have in common, such as a daily emphasis on vegetables, fruits, beans, and whole grains, as well as heart-healthy olive oil and more fish than meat and chicken. Simple preparation methods using fresh, high-quality ingredients allow the amazing tastes to flourish.
All of this brought to mind a discussion I once had with Turkish colleagues over cups and cups of Cay, or Turkish Tea, which, according to Merve Doran, founder of the Turkish brand Oleamea Olive Oil, is offered from sunrise to sunset at weddings, funerals, and business meetings. And that’s a perfect example: in Italy and Spain, espresso is the preferred beverage, yet in Tunisia, mint tea is preferred. Cay is the name in Turkey. Every aspect of food and drink, including flavor combinations, varies by country. Also, each of these foods and beverages has particular health advantages.
However, a lot of that is lost when it is reduced to what adheres to the Mediterranean Diet as seen through American eyes. The conventional meals that are frequently promoted, such as vegetables, seafood, olive oil, and pasta, are all fantastic. Nevertheless, given that America is a melting pot, some of these other flavors and combinations should also be celebrated, investigated, and enjoyed.
The most crucial thing, in my opinion, is that people understand that while every culture has foods, they may be prepared differently or even have a different appearance, according to Shana Spence, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.N. of The Nutrition Tea. “Most people, in my observation, tend to associate vegetables with being roasted, which is excellent and delicious, but sauces, salsas, soups, stews, etc. are all vegetable-based foods that also provide nutrients.
Adopt the full, authentic Mediterranean diet. If you enjoy cooking, think about buying a cookbook that features dishes from the Middle East or perhaps one from Northern Africa. If you frequently eat out, excellent! If so, think about visiting several places that have distinctive dishes, flavors, and cultural influences.
Discover new spices, flavors, and preparation techniques to personalize them and enjoy the flavor and health benefits. And certainly, all of this may be enjoyed with a glass of Italian red wine, some Syrian pita and hummus, Israeli burned eggplant, and Turkish olive oil.
Or try a recipe from Louisville, Kentucky’s Red Hog Restaurant & Butcher Shop’s executive chef Noam Blitzer, an Israeli-born native.
According to Chef Blitzer and his staff, they include many of these cultural characteristics into the dishes that are offered on the menu, which changes every week. “When I was 6 years old, I left Israel. Israel is a cultural mash-up. Levantine countries’ diverse regional cuisines are combined with tastes from Europe, Africa, Asia, and Latin America. “Flavors I grew up with are often in my dishes, like our ‘Burnt Eggplant,’ which is one of our more popular meals on our menu,” says the chef. “All these diverse cultures came together and recreated local foods with new flavors and techniques.”
Israeli Burnt Eggplant
What You’ll Need:
2 Italian purple eggplant, 2 each
4 garlic cloves
Juice from 2 lemons
2 tsp salt
1 cup tahini paste
1/2 cup ice water
1 tsp Urfa chili
1 tsp toaste sesame seeds
1 tsp za’atar
1/4 cup pomegranate seeds
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup toasted sunflower seeds
1/4 cup mint leaves
1/4 cup parsley leaves
How to Make It:
1. Use a fork to poke holes all over the eggplant. Grill the eggplant over high heat or under a broiler until blackened and very soft, about 20 minutes on each side. Set aside to cool.
2. In a medium bowl combine the garlic, lemon juice, and salt. Whisk in the tahini and water until the mixture is smooth. 3. Once the eggplant is cool to the touch, halve each lengthwise. Take a fork and gently scrape the soft flesh from the eggplant and onto a serving platter. Top with salt, tahini sauce, seeds, herbs, and olive oil.