Mediterranean Cuisine: Superfoods for Boosting Immunity
To find out what makes the Mediterranean diet our ally in boosting immunity, we turned to Jurica Grosinger, a personal trainer and nutrition graduate who gave us many useful tips on which ingredients to choose and how to prepare them. For Jurica, the Mediterranean diet is his everyday life and, besides being devoted to it his whole life, he also shares his knowledge about it unselfishly. Here’s what he recommends.
According to the global nutrition standards, the Mediterranean diet is at the forefront of all types of diets, that is, cuisines. Few regions of the world have so many fresh ingredients, flavours, mutual gastronomic influences that have been around since forever. Most importantly, the Mediterranean way of eating and living makes us enthusiastic and full of energy, happier and ultimately more longevous.
We approach absolutely every meal, more precisely, thinking of what, when and how much to eat, through the prism of our elders, guided by all the benefits of the modern world in which our generation lives today. That way, we further reduce our daily stress as we look forward to all the wonderful food we are about to eat. Daily activities and frequent physical recreation are just additional “spices” of our lives, let’s put it that way, because we usually go to the green market and the fish market, or simply for an afternoon stroll and absorb some vitamin D through its best source, the sun.
These are superfoods of the Mediterranean diet
Tomatoes are rich in lycopene, a powerful herbal antioxidant pigment from the carotenoid family that gives them a distinctive red colour. They protect and strengthen the heart, blood vessels and other muscles and keep the skin strong for fighting against UV rays. A healthy heart means better circulation, which means better immunity. Eat tomatoes raw or cooked and make sure to drizzle them with olive oil as that makes them absolutely irresistible.
Olive oil is the liquid gold of the Mediterranean and there is literally no Mediterranean country that does not have its own olive oil. Vitamin E, monounsaturated fatty acids, numerous polyphenols and simply wonderful aroma and taste make olive oil the basis of our local diet, but also the basis of a strong immunity. It is best to use it raw, as a spice.
Vampires cannot stand it, and we in the Mediterranean are crazy about it – garlic. It is packed with aliin, its main active substance which converts into well-known allicin when garlic is cut. It protects one’s immune system from harmful microorganisms. If you have stomach problems, when cleaning each clove, take out the middle part to help your stomach digest it, but also extract all the benefits of garlic. Use it in absolutely everything, in moderation.
Whatever its colour, onion is also present in almost every dish of the Mediterranean cuisine. It is rich in vitamins B, C, potassium and anthocyanins – all in the service of boosting immunity, as well as taste of all dishes.
Parsley, as a spice plant, adds a certain depth of flavour to every dish, from soups to salads. It cleans the urinary system and facilitates its functioning. It is an excellent detox ally, rich in vitamins K, A and C and flavonoids.
The most longevous Mediterranean people eat rosemary and oregano every day. The leaves of those herbs are rich in strong antioxidants. A pinch of one or the other is sufficient, otherwise they might even ruin certain dishes. Eat their leaves fresh or dried, whole or chopped, in cold or cooked/roasted dishes. Along with parsley, rosemary and oregano are the three most important spices of the Mediterranean.
Probiotics as nutrients are one of the most important immunity superheroes of the Mediterranean diet, and we eat them almost every day here. The most famous fermented ingredient rich in probiotics is certainly the yogurt, but also other foods such as cheeses (goat, sheep, cow, etc.), non-thermally processed pickled olives and capers, and even red wine. All of those foods contain probiotic cultures with protein, calcium, healthy fats, polyphenols… Anything that boosts immunity and keeps it healthy. It is enough to have a cup of yogurt a day, and let the yogurt be your main source of the probiotics of the Mediterranean. One study found that having a bit of red wine and its polyphenols just every other week could refresh your gut flora.
Mediterranean people also eat cereals every day, ideally wholegrain cereals, because of their dietary fibres and zinc. Dietary fibres clean our intestines, which automatically means a better immunity as well. The Mediterranean diet does not have any restrictions, while providing a huge selection of ingredients.
Walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds… Whatever nuts you choose, nibble them regularly and in small amounts, as 7 to 10 almonds a day can be beneficial to your body thanks to their healthy fats and minerals.
The main sources of proteins of the Mediterranean are blue or white fish, seafood, eggs, cheese, but also meat such as chicken or veal… It is up to you to simply choose what you feel like eating. The size of the palm of your hand is sufficient per serving for each of the aforementioned sources of protein and essential amino acids. Vegetarians and vegans of the Mediterranean prefer beans, chickpeas, peas, lentils, sprouts of cereals and other herbs. Proteins repair and build up our body’s tissues and help reduce infections, and some of these foods like fish and eggs can be great sources of vitamin D and zinc that are essential for immunity.
You should eat fruits and vegetables every day, as they are sources of vitamins A, C, E, K, but also minerals like zinc, calcium, magnesium and many other antioxidants. When the body is packed with those nutrients, it is better protected from attacks by harmful microorganisms such as viruses and bacteria.
Water and avoiding dehydration are extremely important for maintaining strong immunity. Why? With less water, the immune system, just like all other organs of the body, works poorly. On the other hand, with water we moisten the mucous membranes of our airways which can, only in that way, trap and flush harmful pathogens out of the body. You can also drink unsweetened herbal teas, but do not drink sweetened juices and sodas.
Jurica’s little secrets of the healthy Mediterranean:
Every morning, drink a glass of water (at room temperature), containing a quarter or a half of a squeezed lemon, depending on the size of that lemon. Once a week, treat yourself to a serving of your favourite dessert.
Jurica’s recipe for immuno-sauce with yogurt:
Add a bit of chopped fresh parsley, garlic, a pinch of salt and pepper and a tablespoon of olive oil into 2 dcl of yoghurt. Stir everything well and serve with salads, rice, pasta, cooked vegetables, roasted meat, whatever you like. You can use rosemary or oregano instead of parsley. You can also make this dressing in the morning and leave it covered in the fridge until lunchtime to better combine its ingredients and flavours.
We hope that those tips will help you develop some new good habits that will improve your quality of life.