LaVie Organique Skincare Blog

All posts in category "Mediterranean diet and lifestyle"

As Good As It Gets: Antioxidants for Dessert

Summer Apricots: A Sweet Source of Anti-aging Nutrients

Summer fruits are a delicious way to add antioxidant vitamins, flavonoids, and other revitalizing phytonutrients to your diet. As rich in anti-aging nutrients including vitamin C and beta-carotene as they are in flavor, apricots epitomize the spirit of Mediterranean-style cuisines. In Turkey, this delectable relative of the peach is so prized that the Turkish equivalent of the English idiom “it doesn’t get any better than this” (bundan iyisi  Şam’da kayısı) is “the only thing better than this is an apricot in Damascus.”

The featured role of apricots in my native Romania’s famously luscious pastries, jams, and other desserts reflects the enduring cultural influence of early Greco-Roman and Turkish settlers on our diverse and vibrant cuisine. One of my personal favorites is a distinctly Romanian variant of Italy’s albicocche cotte al vino (“apricots cooked in wine”).

Fresh Apricots Cooked in Wine

Unlike the Italian version, my grandmother’s recipe – which appears below - doesn’t require making a syrup of dry white wine, sugar, and vanilla. The use of a sweet dessert wine and cinnamon instead reduces the preparation time and calorie count, while maximizing the fresh, natural taste of the fruit.You can also adjust the taste of this dessert to suit your palate. If you desire a honey-like sweetness and complex flavor, choose a true dessert wine, such as Romanian Grasa de Cotnari, Hungarian Tokay, or an imported or domestic Muscat. If you have less of a sweet tooth, your might prefer the taste of lighter white wines like a sauvignon blanc or German Riesling.

Delicious summer apricots are loaded with anti-aging nutrients.

INGREDIENTS

Fresh apricots, 1-1/2 lb (fruit should be ripe but not mushy)

White dessert wine*

Cinnamon, a pinch

Vanilla ice cream (optional)

Cut apricots in half and remove the stones. Place facedown in a large skillet. Pour in wine. Cook the fruit approximately 3 minutes on each side. Serve alone or with a small scoop of vanilla ice cream for special treat!

 

Romanian Holiday: A State of Health, Happiness, and Mediterranean Desserts

Moderate portions of simple yet elegant fruit-based desserts like this one are a great way to integrate sensual pleasure into a naturally healthy lifestyle. Even in the wintertime, one bite of this refreshing treat recalls the extended hours of sunlight during my summer holidays on the shores of the Black Sea. Regardless of whether you summer in Portofino, Martha’s Vineyard, or your own backyard, my grandmother’s summer dessert recipe is guaranteed put you in a vacation state of mind.

Add regular doses of summer's natural pleasures to your European-style anti-aging regime. Image: Idea go / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Traditional Mediterranean Food for Thought

From Rome to Romanian: Mediterranean Culture Meets Eastern European Health Practices

For centuries, the traditional diet and lifestyle in countries around the Mediterranean Sea – parts of Italy, Greece, France, Spain, Portugal, and northern Africa – have helped the beneficiaries of this naturally healthy way of life to stave off obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and other degenerative diseases and symptoms of aging.

Many people are surprised to learn that an equally old and wonderfully complex Mediterranean tradition exists in my native Romania. The long intermingling of indigenous peoples with settlers from the Greco-Roman and Ottoman Empires has enriched Romania’s national identity and culture with its own unique version of the Mediterranean spirit.

Romania's historical ties to the Mediterranean World trace back to the ancient Greco-Roman civilization. Image: Idea go / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Romanian Holiday: The Original Club Med on the Shores of the Black Sea

Perhaps the most famous legacy of early Roman colonists is Romania’s enduring reputation as the Mediterranean World’s original vacation hotspot. Ever since Roman colonists first capitalized on the local custom of bathing in the mineral-rich waters by building the country’s first health resorts, Romanian spa hotels have been famous as fashionable retreats for Europe’s ailing, tired, and bored elite.

What made these summer getaways so popular with sophisticated Europeans was the Old World elegance of the Romanian spa experience. Instead of submitting to a rigorously ascetic health regime, the rich and pampered could restore their physical, mental, and emotional equilibrium while also indulging their taste for luxury and sensual pleasure. Even today, Romania’s sultry summer weather, lush vineyards, and long stretches of fine white sand continue to draw favorable comparisons to the French and Italian Riviera.

The world's first luxury spa vacations were on the shore's of the Black Sea. Image: photostock / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Classic Food for Thought: 5 Tips for Nurturing Slim, Youthful Looks

The long, hot month of August is the perfect time to cultivate the health and beauty benefits of a traditional Romanian spa vacation. The following Old World health and dietary practices will provide you with the fundamental building blocks for healthier relationship with food and a more elegant and relaxed way of life.

1. Add more plant-derived foods to your diet. Fresh fruits and vegetables, grains, beans and other legumes, and nuts are the primary food sources in traditional European diets. Rich in antioxidants including vitamins A, C, and E vitamins, phytonutrients, and omega-3 oils, these cuisines are great for your waistline, your heart and circulatory system, as well as your complexion.

2. Avoid processed foods and takeout. Make yourself a nutritious meal from fresh ingredients instead. Of course, we all have days that broiling a chicken breast or even cooking a simple omelet can seem overwhelming.  That’s why it’s smart to keep the fridge stocked with a mix of healthful foods that can be combined in a balanced meal. Here are some options:

a. Hummus or yogurt (the real fermented kind!) with raw vegetables/whole grain pita bread

b. Dark greens, fresh or leftover cooked vegetables with some nuts or cheese for protein

c. An inventive sandwich like this Greek salad on a bun.

3. Take time to savor your food. Multitasking at mealtimes not only diminishes the pleasure of eating but also encourages rapid, mindless consumption of too many calories. Do your digestion, your figure, and your senses a favor. Stop eating on the run or out of a carton standing in front of the refrigerator – and turn off the TV. Set the table as you would for an honored guest. Arrange your food nicely on a plate, down at the table, and pay attention to the interplay of tastes, aromas, and textures that make a meal delightful sensory experience. After you’ve finished eating, contemplate a vase of flowers or listen to soothing Classical music as you sip a glass of wine or a cup of tea. In Romania, this is our version of meditation!

A small portion of a beautifully presented dish can be more satisfying than a carton of greasy take-out.Image: nuchylee / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

4. Stick with high-quality foods. This rule applies to splurges as well as dietary staples. Cheap store brand desserts and snacks that are full of trans fat and chemicals are not only unhealthy, but also pretty unappetizing compared to treats made with real ingredients. Low-fat foods can be equally deadly. Most diet desserts and snack foods are overloaded with sugar to compensate for the lack of fat, which makes them both unsatisfying and addictive.

5. Maintain a healthy lifestyle, but give yourself a break now and then. Eat moderate portions of nutrient-dense foods and exercise regularly. But keep in mind that an ice cream cone on a hot day or skipping the gym to have coffee with a friend isn’t going to make you fat and flabby overnight.

A Balanced Anti-Aging Prescription for Extreme Times

Over the past 30 years, economic and social changes in many European countries have brought not only the advantages of modern life but also the health problems associated with America’s high-stress fast food culture. That is not to say we all should throw away our modern conveniences and move to a cabin in the woods. Instead of going to extremes, find a comfortable middle ground. Choose the traditional health practices and 21st scientific principles that fit your lifestyle, physical condition, and personal goals to create a disciplined but flexible plan for living a long and beautiful life.

Why Americans Don’t Get Thin

The Hidden Factor in Mediterranean Diet Success

Since the 2004 publication of Mireille Guiliano’s bestseller Why French Women Don’t Get Fat, the health benefits of the Mediterranean lifestyle have gained widespread recognition from U.S. physicians and nutritionists. The American public, on the other hand, remains skeptical.

For the typical American weight watcher, thinness is as a temporary state of grace achieved by a 30-day penance of Slimfast lunches and 5 a.m. boot camp classes. In a culture where The Biggest Losers, liposuction infomercials, and celebrity endorsements of bariatric surgery define the top-shelf weight loss strategies, a simple, natural approach has become a tough sell.

Is an overly rigid approach to eating undermining your health and beauty goals?

Obesity Rates: A Tale of Two Cultures
Yet a comparison of the obesity statistics in these three countries’ populations suggests the citizens in Europe’s top two eat-drink-and-be-merry nations are laughing all the way to a wine and cheese party.

Italy: 8.5%
France: 9.4%
U.S.: 30.6%.

For many Americans, the numbers just don’t compute. Perhaps native Europeans are genetically hard-wired to avoid overindulging in pasta and pastry. How else could those enviably thin Parisians and Romans get away with an exercise regime that strikes the average American gym rat as a walk in the park? Or maybe it’s something in the air or the water over there.

Obviously something is getting lost in translation.

Rediscovering the Pleasure Principle

In fact, there is something in missing in the American cultural atmosphere that predisposes people to obesity and rapid weight cycling. That elusive missing factor is the very attitude that strikes Americans as a health threat, if not a sin. In France and Italy, every citizen sees enjoyment of the celebrated regional cuisine as his or her birthright. As noted Mediterranean food expert Clifford A. Wright explains: “Mediterranean cuisines developed as a reaction against the monotonous foods of centuries of famine and starvation. The historical progression of Mediterranean culinary culture is a battle of taste over monotony, of life over death.” *

The Middle Path to Natural Slenderness and Lasting Youth
It’s this sense of entitlement to a bite of la dolce vita that I believe is the secret to avoiding the temptation to overeat and overexercise. In Southern Europe and other Mediterranean cultures, a daily dose of joie de vivre has proven to be the perfect antidote to the body’s instinctive reaction to deprivation.

A lifelong vacation from guilt may strike you as undisciplined, but in fact it’s the exact opposite of losing control and letting yourself go. The key to regaining a healthy relationship with food is the mindful practice of respecting your body’s need and nurturing happy, peaceful mind and spirit.

That’s not to say you should become a coach potato or a junk-food junkie. Instead, strive thoughtfully and continuously for the happy “middle way” between these two unhealthy extremes.

Begin to change slowly, and monitor the effects over time. If you’re achy and exhausted from over-exercising, skip a day or two to restore your energy and motivation. Most important, remind yourself that rest and relaxation have nothing to do with laziness. In fact, you’ll find this more flexible and rational approach will actually help you maintain a regular fitness regime by protecting you against exercise burnout.

Still worried about throwing away your rulebook?  In my next post, I’ll share some suggestions for easing your transition to a naturally beautiful way of life.

*Clifford A. Wright, A Mediterranean Feast (William Morrow, 1999).

How Fear of Swimsuit Season Fuels Premature Aging

It’s summertime and the living is easy.

But try telling that to your growling stomach. Even if you manage to resist the allure of succulent grilled ribs, buttery corn on the cob, and frozen strawberry margaritas till Labor Day, once you put your bathing suit, then what? Your body can’t run on celery sticks and Perrier forever. Sooner or later your basic human instincts will take over and demand real physical and emotional sustenance. That’s why the so-called fast track to weight loss is actually a vicious circle. Instead of attaining a healthy muscle to fat ratio, your body stays trapped in an endless cycle of dropping and adding unwanted pounds.

Reconnect with a classic diet and lifestyle to re-establish a healthy weight.

Why Diet Pain Brings Chronic Weight Gain—and Worse

A great deal has already been written about damage yo-yo dieting does to your waistline. Unfortunately, the risks to your health and appearance don’t stop there. While it’s packing on the pounds by slowing down your metabolism, rapid weight cycling can simultaneously speed up your biological clock, increasing the strain on your organ systems and adding extra years to your face. Even a partial list of the potential consequences suggests crash dieting will ultimately make you look and feel old before your time.

  • Malnutrition
  • Gallstones
  • Muscle atrophy
  • Dehydration and electrolyte imbalances
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Irritability/depression
  • Hair loss
  • Sagging, lackluster skin

Modern Diet Madness: Taking the Joy Out of Food

Why do millions of sensible, well-informed Americans continue to cling to this irrational approach to weight control? While many diverse factors contribute to the persistent popularity of crash diets, the roots of this

misguided practice lie in the conflicting pressures and mixed messages inflicted by modern industrialized society. The intense stress of continually striving for professional success, personal happiness, and a perfect body image can drive even the most sensible person to desperate measures.

When yet another new diet “miracle” promises to finally disprove the evidence of science and their own experience, renewed hope can override your better judgment.

A Simple Plan for Sustainable Weight Loss

The good news is that you don’t need a miracle diet to maintain a slender, youthful appearance for life. All you have to do is replace your restrictive summertime diet menu with a completely different one. Only two items are

excluded from this alternative meal plan: your daily servings of suffering and guilt.

Connect with a Classic Anti-Aging Approach

In Romania, where I grew up, we have a saying: “Good thoughts always pass first through your stomach.” These words capture our enduring respect and gratitude for the simple pleasures of a fine meal. The source ofour traditional reverence for food is also the birthplace of many of the world’s most flavorful and exciting cuisines: the Roman, Greek, and other classical Mediterranean civilizations that helped shape Romania’s rich cultural heritage.

This whole-hearted acceptance of our natural human appetites is the foundation of the Old World approach to eating that I’ll discuss in my next post. Whether you call it French Paradox, he Mediterranean Mystery, or the Benefits of Mindful Eating, the amazing result of this balanced attitude toward food is living proof that great ideas never die—they simply get reinvented.