In Search of the Mediterranean Diet
While traveling in Greece for two months, we never found the real Mediterranean Diet. But we tried!
Aside from the amazing produce and bakery sections, the Whole Foods Market in Kensington has everything to offer. On the ground floor, they have a wine and cheese bar offering organic wines and cheeses from all over the world.
On the second floor, they even provide Wi-Fi in a section designated for computer users near the prepared food area. This floor has a bunch of organic eateries, including an oyster bar, a sushi bar, a pizza kitchen, an organic crepe and homemade gelato counter, a noodle grill -- the list goes on and on. I’ve been to many Whole Foods all over California and the United States, but the Kensington Whole Foods Market is definitely the biggest and best, and a true paradise for foodies! We stuffed ourselves, and bought all the amazing healthy food we could carry, and headed back to the airport.
We had on Oia the most wonderful room high up on the cliff overlooking the caldera, with three balconies at our disposal. The room had a small kitchen, and I made most of our meals right there in the room using local ingredients I went shopping for every day.
The extra virgin olive oil served at otherwise average tavernas we ate at in Greece was far superior in flavor than the olive oil I have tried in the U.S. I’m still looking for an oil that comes at least close to the high quality and rich flavor of the ones I had in Greece.
Breakfast is not a big meal in Greece. But dinner is huge, and usually eaten at around 8:00 or 9:00 PM. This worked for us because we stayed up working until 2:00 AM, usually, to be more in synch with business hours in the U.S.
I’ve never been one to worry about my weight, but two months of relentless gluttony and over-indulgence definitely took its toll on my body. Even when I was walking or hiking an average of 50 miles per week. 12 pounds of weight gain later reminded me what conspicuous consumption of often low-nutrient, high-calorie food can do to the body.
I only found one health food store (which they call a "biomart"), which happened to be in our neighborhood. Though it was tiny, I was impressed by the variety of items they manage to stock, mostly imported fare from Germany and elsewhere in Europe. They sold all organically produced products, which are labeled as “bio” short for “biodynamic.” They offered a good selection of fruits and vegetables as well as beans and grains, including mung beans, black beans, giant beans, quinoa, millet, and barley, which, of course, I purchased to make some vegan home-cooked healthy meals while in Athens.
Based on available research, I remain confident that moderate consumption of organic whole soy foods is perfectly safe and even healthy.
Thanks to "experts" who advocate meat-based diets and are partial to dairy consumption -- and also specific groups who have a vested interest in the dairy industry, soy has been demonized. Nothing could be less threatening than an organic soy bean.
Food manufacturers tamper with a wide variety of foods, including soy, turning it into something harmful that can cause an array of health related issues. Common maladies include food sensitivities and allergies. Our inclination to make food choices based on convenience and cheapness rather than health is the root of the problem. Processed convenience foods that are highly refined and eaten in high quantities can wreak havoc in our bodies.
One of the most obvious misconceptions in the United States about diet and health is the false ideas about milk, calcium and osteoporosis. The belief is that lack of calcium causes osteoporosis, and that drinking milk is the best way to load up on calcium. Yet even experts can't explain why America has both the highest per-capita consumption of milk AND the highest global rate of osteoporosis. In parts of the world where soy is heavily consumed and milk is not, such as many parts of Asia, osteoporosis is almost non-existent.
When it comes to food choices, quantity and quality are both part of the equation. For example, eating Velveeta or American cheese is more harmful than eating an organic Greek salad with goat feta cheese. But then again, eating kale with garlic, olive oil and quinoa would be way healthier.
The same thing applies to many vegetarians. Far too often, soy is routinely inserted into the diet in place of animal products. Chicken is replaced by soy. Beef is replaced by soy. Hamburgers, hot dogs, sausages -- all come in frozen processed-soy versions. Cheese, milk, yogurt and other dairy products are replaced by soy-based variants. Most soy products are highly processed and quite unhealthy. And a lack of variety in the diet is unhealthy, too.
Eating homemade meals from scratch is the most effective way of avoiding the consumption of soy, given its prevalence as an ingredient in many other foods. If you do stick to soy, completely eliminate consumption of processed soy including tofu dogs, soy burgers, soy cheeses, fake soy deli meats and soy sausages. Eat only the least processed foods such as organic tofu, soymilk, tamari sauce, miso, tempeh and edamames.
"Thou shouldst eat to live; not live to eat."
Socrates (469 BC - 399 BC)
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FOOD FOR THOUGHT
I love ginger and its tangy spiciness, and think it's one of the most underused, underappreciated foods around.
Ginger is the underground stem or rhizome of the ginger plant (Zingiber officinale). It offers many healing properties.
Ginger has been used since ancient times in Asia for medicinal purposes, including relief of nausea, motion sickness, arthritis, indigestion, flu, cold symptoms and PMS. It’s best to consume ginger that's fresh. Mix it in food or beverages to avoid the burning sensation it may cause on an empty stomach. Ginger should be avoided by people with bleeding disorders or before undergoing surgery.
I like to add ginger to smoothies and meals I used Asian spices in. I will post my favorite ginger citrus smoothie recipe on the Vegetarian Organic Blog soon. I also make my own chai mixture using whole cloves, fennel seeds, cardamom pods, cinnamon sticks, peppercorns, aniseed and star anise. My husband, however, is the expert in making the actual tea and he always adds lots of fresh grated ginger to it. Yum!
I take mine without any black tea in it, because I prefer to avoid caffeine. Stay tuned and I will also share my chai recipe soon.
Here's the Vegetarian Organic Store where you can find my favorite cookbooks (and other books), kitchen tools, cookware, dry goods and even gifts and movies!
Here's the Amira Store for clothing and accessories!
On my first visit the local laiki (Farmer’s Market) in Athens, Greece, I was inspired to make a soup using only the items available at the stands. I made this soup to share with our cousins in Greece in gratitude for their hospitality and generosity for sharing their home with us.
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