27 MARCH, 2013

Lent, the seasonal edition of the Mediterranean diet

Lent is the cornerstone of our religious tradition. Fasting, however, does not just translate into abstinence from dairy products and the prevalence, of seafood, fruit and vegetables in our lives. It is also a good opportunity to remember the benefits of one of the most well-balanced diets in the world: the mediterranean diet. Horio, with a deep knowledge of the secrets to a good mediterranean diet, can help us uncover how the solemnity of tradition meets a balanced diet. Let’s learn how.

According to the Orthodox religion, lent lasts approximately 200 days a year. An average Greek, limits lent to the 40 days leading up to Christmas, the 49 days leading up to Easter and the 2 weeks before August 15 (Assumption of Mary) – periods which most encounter as a good opportunity to upgrade the quality of our food. The reason for this, is that it is commonly thought that red meat is the root of most healt-related issues; From obesity to chronic health problems. Yet, contrary to what many think, experts are unequivocal: carbohydrates (pasta, rice, potatoes etc) have similar effects and these are the foods that typically monopolize our dinner tables. Modern diets, most notably the Atkins diet, underline the necessity to curb carbohydrate intake and have that at the core of their philosophy. Is it possible though to combine lent with a balanced diet, which will be reflected both in our health and our appearance?

Fasting and Nutrition

Yes, it is possible to combine fasting with a balanced diet that can help us maintain or lose weight. As long as it does not systematically include some of the most popular Lenten dishes and in excess: French fries, dips made of taramas, mezedes (Greek snacks), halva – all of which are produced from raw materials and in a manner that, combined with their large portions, turn into calorie bombs.

Some tips to maintain or lose some weight during lent:

  • Pay extra attention to the quantity of food we consume. Given that most lenten foods do not induce satiation, we eat them in greater quantities than other food so that we may feel full
  • Introduce into our diet green leaf salads, as a side dish, with our main course. It will help us fill up faster.
  • Try not to exceed two table spoons of olive oil every day
  • Use whole wheat products that our organism metabolizes faster, while its fibers help us feel full faster.
  • We avoid packaged juices and prefer blending it at home, retaining the fruit’s natural fibers. They are extremely filling and can function as small meals.
  • We keep butter as an ingredient in our breakfast – it provides energy, which during this specific time period we need much more of, and keep us feeling full until our next meal. Because during lent we must abstain from dairy product, we use margarine instead of butter.

Lent and Health

Many have the impression that fasting has health benefits since it is the basis for the Mediterranean diet: it removes red mead from our daily life, giving us the opportunity to detox. The truth is that lent shares many aspect with the mediterranean diet – as long as it is balanced and does not deprive our organism of necessary ingredients found mostly in dairy products (proteins, iron, vitamin D and B12, calcium, riboflavin) and as long as it is avoided by groups who have specific dietary needs (children, pregnant women, nursing mothers and people suffering from anemia and osteoporosis).

What we should eat so we can feel healthy during the period of lent:

  • Nuts, tahini, rice, wheat, mushroom, as protein supplements
  • Legums, fortified cereals, shellfish, as iron supplements, combined with vitamin C sources (oranges, lemons, peppers etc) that facilitate iron absorption
  • Seafood, as a vitamin B12 supplement
  • Tahini, sesame, sunflower seeds, almonds, dried fruits, soy, as a riboflavin supplement
  • Broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, okra, halva, soy milk and green, leafy salad, as a calcium supplement
  • Margarine, as a vitamin A, D and E supplement.

Combining the aforementioned tips helps us experience these special days of the year the way we want to, while enjoying the many benefits of the mediterranean diet – knowing with certainty that we will not unknowingly harm ourselves.




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