The Oldways Table Blog

Celebrating health,
happiness, heritage,
and delicious,
nutritious food.

May 26, 2016 | Oldways Table

Looking to add a little zip to your sex life?

Dive head first into the Mediterranean Diet. Wherever you live, whatever your age, it’s your ticket to vigor, sustaining your body, and putting you in the mood for intimacy for all the years to come. Don’t blush. Sex is downright good for you. Studies show that it can relieve stress, lower your blood pressure, keep you from getting colds, burn calories, and boost self esteem.

Recent studies have found that eating a Mediterranean diet can improve cardiovascular function in patients with erectile dysunction — meaning that the Med diet is, in essence, Viagra au naturel. According to a Web MD article, ""The link between the Mediterranean diet and improved sexual function has been scientifically established," says Irwin Goldstein, MD, director of sexual medicine at Alvarado Hospital in San Diego."

The Mediterranean Diet delivers what you need and when you need it, because it’s a smart, simple approach to eating well that offers profound health benefits and keeps you at the top of your game. When combined with physical activity (sex counts) on a regular basis, it can reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease by 40 percent, among a variety of other benefits to bone, brain, and heart health.

The Mediterranean Diet can also help you:

  • Lose or maintain weight and boost self esteem, especially important when you’re naked.
  • Reduce your risk of heart disease and high blood pressure, upping the odds that you’ll feel like being active, very active.
  • Resist depression. The blues do nothing for libido.
  • Feel full between meals. Who has time to eat when passion strikes?
  • Safeguard your eyesight. Remember: Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

No counting calories. No weekly meal plans to follow. Just plenty of delicious, fresh food to enjoy with your beloved. It’s all about a healthy whole diet, which is a true turn on for your body and your brain. So grab your sweetie and head to the kitchen.

Here are a few tips to bring more love into your life:

  1. Slow down. Whenever you can, enhance the sensuality of eating together and the pleasures of the table. Share a dinner by candlelight and savor each bite of food. Look at your partner. Enjoy conversation. Drink wine together.
  2.  Eat Seafood. The legendary lover Casanova reputedly started his days with dozens of oysters.  He was on to something. Raw oysters are high in zinc, an essential mineral needed to produce testosterone. (A zinc deficiency can render you impotent.)  Shellfish, including mussels and clams, may also have a direct effect on sex hormones. And, fish such as tuna, herring, salmon, and sardines are rich in heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Eating fish and seafood twice a week boosts overall brain and heart health, and contributes to good circulation in all your parts. Studies show that men who follow the Med Diet are less likely to suffer from erectile dysfunction.
  3. Eat lots of vegetables, which deliver countless nutritional benefits to support overall health. Onions are legendary for their curative powers and association with enhanced libido. Try roasting them in a hot oven and drizzling with balsamic vinegar. Let your mind wander as you prepare vegetables with phallic shapes. (Think carrots, zucchini or cucumbers rather than green beans.)  And put a little extra oomph into the presentation. Drizzle some olive oil slowly over a ripe, juicy tomato, top it with some fragrant, crumbled feta cheese, and share it with your lover. Vegetables in all shapes and sizes are vitally important to the delicious flavors and healthy cooking of the Med Diet. Try to fill half your plate with them at lunch and dinner.
  4. Change the way you think about meat. It’s really not sexy to watch someone tear into a haunch of beef. If you eat meat, cut back on how much you consume at one meal. Add small strips of sirloin to a vegetable sauté, or garnish a dish of pasta with diced prosciutto. As a main course, have 3 ounces or less of chicken or leaner meat.
  5. Cook a vegetarian meal one night a week. You won’t feel too full to play around before you go to sleep.  Build the meal around beans, whole grains, and vegetables, and heighten the flavor with fragrant herbs and spices.  Turn up the heat with garlic, ginger, and pepper, foods that wake up the body. When one night feels comfortable, try two nights a week…for the vegetarian meal, that is.
  6. Use good fats. Include sources of healthy fats in daily meals, especially extra-virgin olive oil, nuts, peanuts, sunflower seeds, olives, and avocados. They deliver a wide range of health benefits including smooth skin and shiny hair.
  7. Always eat breakfast. Wake your lover up with clementines or grapes, easy foods to eat in bed and instant breath fresheners.  When you’re dressed, move on to eggs or fiber-rich whole grains that can keep you feeling pleasantly full for hours. For a healthy “instant” breakfast, mash half an avocado with a fork and spread it on a slice of whole grain toast.
  8. For dessert, eat fresh fruit or bits of cheese. Figs are linked with libido because of their resemblance to female anatomy, but you can choose from whatever is fresh and/or in season. Find ways to share a fruit dessert. For example, dip juicy ripe strawberries into plain Greek yogurt and feed them to each other.

Bottom line? You need to eat well to love well.

Georgia Orcutt

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May 24, 2016 | Oldways Table

“Although there are exceptions, tradition rarely honors unhealthy habits … Traditional diets are compatible with the respective ecosystem and are, more often than not, supportive of the local economy.” ~ Antonia Trichopoulou, MD, PhD

Anyone that has studied the Mediterranean diet has likely come across the work of the “mother of the Mediterranean diet,” Antonia Trichopoulou, MD, PhD, President of the Hellenic Health Foundation and Director of the World Health Organization Collaborating Centre of Nutrition, Medical School at the University of Athens (read Antonia's bio here).

Hailing from the Mediterranean itself, Greece specifically, Antonia has dedicated her scientific work to studying public health nutrition and nutrition epidemiology, with emphasis on the health effects of the Mediterranean diet and traditional foods. She was a leading researcher in the 1980s when interest around the Mediterranean diet resurged, and she is proud to have been “present at the universal recognition” of the Mediterranean diet during Oldways' 1993 conference when we unveiled the Mediterranean Diet Pyramid (you can read her reflection here).

When it comes to the Mediterranean diet, no one has been more passionate about olive oil and its importance in a healthy diet than Antonia. As she says, “It’s the olive oil which makes the vegetables taste so wonderful in Greece.” For our final International Mediterranean Diet Month Q&A, we wanted to highlight and celebrate Antonia Trichopoulou’s devotion and expertise in all things Med Diet. An exclusive Med diet presentation, which Antonia gave at our Finding Common Ground Conference last November, is also embedded below the text.

Oldways: What are some of your favorite traditional Mediterranean foods that show up regularly on your table?

Antonia Trichopoulou: "Ladera" (from ladi — λάδι — the Greek name of olive oil) means mainly plant-based foods (e.g. eggplants, okra, fresh beans, legumes) cooked in plenty of olive oil; garlic, onion, tomato, and various herbs and spices (parsley, oregano, basilica, dill, spearmint, etc.) are added. The "Ladera" provides macronutrients and a wide range of micronutrients that meet many recommended daily allowances.

OW: Which health benefits associated with the Mediterranean diet are most striking, in your opinion?

AT: The fact that this diet has considerable beneficial health effects; is based on studies which have indicated convincing inverse associations with overall mortality and with the incidence of coronary heart disease and thrombotic stroke; compelling inverse associations with incidence of cancer overall (including, possibly, incidence of breast and colorectal cancer); likely inverse association with the incidence of adult-onset diabetes mellitus and possibly with the incidence of hip fractures. There have also been randomized trials supporting a beneficial role of the Mediterranean diet on the incidence of cardiovascular events and of survival from coronary heart disease.

After all, this diet is not only health promoting, as the overwhelming evidence indicates, but also delicious, as many of those who have tried variations of it readily acknowledged.

OW: Is there any new area of research around the Mediterranean diet and health that seems promising?

AT: Recent evidence suggest that greater adherence to the Mediterranean diet is associated with longer telomeres. These results further support the benefits of adherence to the Mediterranean diet for promoting health and longevity.

OW: What advice do you have for people who want to follow a Mediterranean diet but don’t think their modern-day lifestyles would support this way of eating and living?

AT: To try to cook ladera at home.

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May 19, 2016 | Oldways Table

Soft, tangy, and milky white, fresh cheeses are the darlings of the cheese world. Some, such as fresh mozzarella, are so young that they barely have time to develop flavors beyond the subtleties of the milk used to make them. Others, such as feta, have more pronounced flavor thanks to added salt and other seasoning. Celebrate Mediterranean Diet Month by learning more about fresh cheeses and their versatility in the kitchen.

Virtually every region around the Mediterranean has its own form of fresh cheese, made from local milk and varying slightly from place to place. Quite a few cheeses are made from whey (the watery part of milk that remains after the formation of cheese curds), making use of the "waste" product from other cheeses.

Here are a few of our favorite ways to enjoy fresh Mediterranean cheeses:

All by themselves. Enjoy a couple slices plain or dress them up with a little olive oil, fresh fruit, or honey for a satisfying snack. Halloumi, a semi-hard fresh cheese from Cyprus, is best served simply sliced and grilled. 

In savory fillings. Greeks are famous for their savory pies (e.g. spanakopita) filled with greens, herbs, and fresh cheeses like feta and the cheese made from its whey, manouri.

Try our recipe for Thick Crusted Greens, Onion, and Feta Pie. Recipe here.

With pasta. In Italy, what cheese tortellini or ravioli would be complete without ricotta? Ricotta is sweet, smooth, and is made from the whey that's drained off in the production of mozzarella and other cheeses.

Make our Greek-style Vegetarian Lasagna. Find the recipe here.

For breakfast. Found throughout the Eastern Mediterranean, labane (or labne or labanah) is a "yogurt cheese" made by draining thick, full-fat yogurt overnight in cloth. It's similar to Greek yogurt - velvety and slightly sour - and traditionally eaten at breakfast served with olive oil, fresh herbs, and pita bread. Try using it as a substitute for cream cheese too.

For texture. Add fresh cheeses to hot dishes - at the last moment, to avoid curdling - to give them a richer flavor and creamier texture. Mascarpone, a velvety smooth Italian "tub cheese" typically used to make tiramisu, can also add creaminess to savory dishes like risotto. A couple of spoonfuls go a long way.

In saladsFeta is a favorite salad cheese because it adds a nice tang that is quick to complement other ingredients, from earthy beets to light and peppery arugula.

Take your tastebuds to the Mediterranean with our Milo Salad with Oregano, Feta Cheese, and Cucumbers. Recipe here.

Cheese, eaten in moderation and in the context of a Mediterranean diet with plenty of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, olive oil, and nuts, is a healthy and nutritious food. For more information about the health benefits of cheese, visit the Oldways Cheese Coalition's website.

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May 17, 2016 | Oldways Table

You can’t talk food and nutrition without also discussing sustainability, as our food systems are inextricably linked with humans and planetary health. And even though the 2015 Dietary Guidelines threw sustainability under the bus, when Oldways gathered some of the world’s top nutrition scientists to find common ground on what comprises the best diet, the experts included sustainability as the second point in the 11-point consensus statement.

One of the most compelling aspects of the Mediterranean diet, aside from its many health benefits, is its roots in sustainability. Mediterranean diet staples are low on the food chain and not resource intensive — think whole grains, pulses, fruits, and veggies that grow happily in that climate — and preservation techniques like curing and sun-drying are common. Like traditional diets around the world, a Med diet (circa the 1950s) reflects the foods that have been cultivated over generations, foods that create a culinary identity, and foods that support the diverse communities spanning the region.

To bring sustainability to our Mediterranean Diet Month table, Oldways connected with Danielle Nierenberg, founder of Food Tank, a nonprofit that works towards “building a global community for safe, healthy, nourished eaters” as its vision states. Dani’s work with Food Tank has been inspiring and eye-opening, and we’re honored to work alongside her as we collectively strive to improve public health and food justice. As part of a TEDx Talk she gave in Manhattan last year, Dani included a fantastic definition of sustainability that sums up what Food Tank is all about:

"For me, it is a food system that does not lurch from crisis to crisis, a food system that does not chew people up and spit them out. Sustainability is what happens when techniques for combatting drought are shared with the people that need them, and sustainability is what happens when women who were making 90 cents per day are now making $5 a day by using agro-ecological practices, and really building better lives for themselves and their families.”

In honor of Mediterranean Diet Month, we asked Dani to bring her expertise to the conversation and speak to the overlap of the Mediterranean diet and sustainability. Check out her Q&A below. You can also watch her TEDx Talk (mentioned above) at the bottom of the page.

Oldways: The concept of sustainable diets rests on the understanding of how what we eat affects our natural resources. Can you explain how different food choices impact planetary health?

Danielle Nierenberg: Food Tank has been working closely with the Barilla Center for Food & Nutrition Foundation and they have developed the Double Pyramid*, which highlights how the foods that tend to be the worst for our health — including industrial livestock products — also tend to have the highest environmental impacts. It makes sense that the foods that harm human health are also the foods that negatively impact the planet. Unfortunately, many people around the globe don't have the option of making healthy and sustainable "choices" around food because of lack of access and affordability and sustainable diets will only be possible when all eaters can afford nutritious, safe and healthy food.

OW: Given that human and planetary health are closely intertwined, in what ways does the traditional Mediterranean diet encourage sustainability?

DN: The Mediterranean Diet can encourage sustainability because it highlights how meat — as well as cheese and eggs — don't have to be the center of meals, but can be used as condiments for both taste and nutrition. Typically, the Mediterranean Diet focuses on plant-based foods like whole grains, legumes and pulses, nuts, healthy oils which are combined with small amounts of fish or meat. Eating lower on the food chain can not only nourish people, but also the planet.

OW: Seafood is one of the most well-recognized aspects of the Mediterranean diet, but many experts warn about the dangers of overfishing. Do you have advice for people who would like to enjoy seafood and a Mediterranean-style diet, without causing undue harm on our fisheries? (Such as types of fish to choose, or how to source it.)

DN: There are so many great resources for eating better fish. The Monterey Bay Aquarium has long been a leader in helping eaters understand which fish are the best to eat for the environment. Their Seafood Watch website is an amazing and easy-to-use resource to help chefs and eaters figure out which fish is the most sustainable.

OW: Most people view the Western diet and our current, industrialized food system as somewhat unsustainable in the long run. In what ways, if any, is it actually easier to embrace sustainable diets today than it was generations ago? In what ways is it harder?

DN: Consumer have so many more choices of foods available today than they did even 10 or 20 years ago. Unfortunately, many of these products are highly processed and high in salt and fat. They also lack nutrients so we're filling people up rather than nourishing them.

*The food pyramid component of the Double Pyramid referenced Oldways' Mediterranean Diet Pyramid model. Learn more here.

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