The Radiation nurses were firmly committed to doing a cooking studio program but struggled over a topic. My only advice to them was to pick a topic they believed in and could get excited about. When Carmela decided she wanted to highlight some recipes representative of the Mediterranean diet, a topic we hadn’t yet covered, I thought it was a great opportunity to teach about the foods and flavors associated with the region.
The Cooking Studio was packed! It just goes to show how hungry people are (pardon the pun) for simple and healthy recipes.
More than a diet, Mediterranean-style eating incorporates positive lifestyle practices and habits with wholesome, locally obtained foods cooked in a healthy way. It follows the food habits of the countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea: Italy, France, Spain and Greece. Emphasis is placed on the consumption of more plant-based meals consisting of minimal processed and antioxidant rich fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and legumes.
With limited grazing land, the bounty of fish and shellfish derived from the Mediterranean Sea contribute low fat and omega-3 fatty acid rich proteins. The ubiquitous olive groves supply the fragrant, monounsaturated olive oil used in cooking. Utilizing fresh or dried herbs and seasonings eliminates the need for excessive sodium found in table salt and processed foods. Low fat dairy from yogurt and milk helps to keep bones, muscles, and teeth strong. While not recommended for everyone, small amounts (5oz/day for women and 10 oz/day for men) of resveratrol rich red wine have been associated with a decrease in heart disease.
It’s not just about nutritious foods, but how and with whom they are eaten. Taking the time to socialize and interact with people you care about makes the meal a destination, not a stop along the way. Imagine if we set aside even one night a week to slow down the pace what that would do for our stress levels.
And don’t forget to exercise! The American Heart Association recommends 30 minutes of exercise 5 times a week. Put on your sun glasses and sun screen and make it a social event by walking with friends or colleagues at work to build and cement lasting relationships.
So take a trip to the Mediterranean, literally or figuratively and begin to see the health benefits enjoyed by so many people around the world.