Hi, Friends! I just returned home from an amazing trip to Israel with some girlfriends. I spent ten days traveling the country, learning more about the history of Israel than I’ve ever learned before and soaking up the sights, smells and tastes of a country I hold near and dear to my heart.
When I returned, I was sitting with Jonathan going through my pictures. Other than the spiritual gains I returned with from this trip, I couldn’t emphasize to him enough how much the food and diet played a role in my visit this time around. The nutritionist in me couldn’t get enough of the fresh produce and fish.
Since Israel is a Mediterranean country, its people follow the Mediterranean diet and while the Mediterranean diet can vary a bit from country to country, the principal aspects of this diet remains: proportionally high consumption of olive oil, legumes, unrefined cereals, fruits, and vegetables, moderate to high consumption of fish, moderate consumption of dairy products (mostly as cheese and yogurt), moderate wine consumption, and low consumption of non-fish meat products.
The locals live by the Mediterranean diet and I could not get over the freshness of the food in Israel. Around every single corner a new vibrant scent, so strong you could almost taste it, colors so bright in every basket of fresh fruits and vegetables and the most beautiful locally sourced fish…it was really all overwhelming.
I stopped and spoke with the local vendors. Unlike in the United States, Israel does not import their fruits and vegetables. Thus, the availability of what you may find in the local markets on a daily basis will change. Every single day, the produce that you purchase has been picked that day. They sell out, their farmers return to their farms and retrieve the fresh local pickings for tomorrow’s delivery and so on and so forth. Never in my life have I tasted food so fresh. I started each morning with fresh local salads, cucumbers dressed with olive oil and vinegar, tomatoes, and more. Every tomato that I put in my mouth was bright in color and vibrant in taste, every bowl of fruit I started the day with knocked my socks off and every single piece of fish prepared for me was more delicious than the last.
I couldn’t help but notice the people of Israel. Almost everyone looked fit and healthy (even Israeli elders). The women had skin that glowed and the children were not overweight, they were active and full of life. I have to believe this is due in large part to their diet, the freshness of the foods they consume, free of preservatives and additives and of course their physical activity.
Jonathan and I talked for hours about the Mediterranean diet since I’ve returned home. As a cardiologist, Jonathan is a huge advocate of this diet and recommends it to his patients all the time. Lots of diets are acclaimed for weight-loss or diabetes control but the Mediterranean diet has proven to help with these and so much more. Weight loss, cardiovascular disease prevention, sugar regulation, it’s even been reported that the Mediterranean diet has a positive influence on cancer, asthma, dementia and depression. Olive oil is the most important component of Mediterranean diet and Jonathan reminded me that there is considerable evidence that olive oil protects against cardiovascular disease. The proof is in the people. Never has a county, its food, its diet, had such an impact on me.
I came home wanting to put more of an emphasis on the Mediterranean diet in our home. A lot of it we practice already, but we for sure can make some improvements. I also came home with loads of olive oil, local spices and pomegranate tea in my suitcase—all fresh from local markets!
I encourage you to do the same. If the idea of overhauling your entire way of shopping and eating seems daunting, start small. Abundant in fresh fruit, vegetables, legumes, whole grains and olive oil, we already know the main principals that make the Mediterranean diet one of the healthiest in the world. Try making one or several of the following small changes below to your diet, they can make a big difference.
Switch from vegetable oil or coconut oil to olive oil both for your dressings and for your cooking.
Eat more fish than you eat red meat/lean meat
Eat fresh veggies all day long
Make the switch to whole grain or whole wheat. This goes for pastas and breads.
Snack on nuts
Curb your sweet tooth with fresh fruit as dessert
Enjoy a glass of red wine with your meal.
I came back from Israel with a love of the culture and its people but an even bigger lover of their food and diet. I hope you’ll take some of my tips above and shake up your daily routine a little. One of my favorite things to do is travel the world and research how different people live. I’m so glad that today I got to share that with you. Xx Janine