I eat a wide variety of delicious foods every day including pasta dishes, curries, cheese and chocolate. I also drink red wine most days. Yet I'm in the best shape of my life and I've never felt healthier.
What's my secret? Actually it's not a secret at all. You've no doubt heard many good things about the Mediterranean diet. You probably also know that Asian diets, such as the Japanese diet, are also extremely healthy. All I did was combine the best parts of these traditional and highly appetising diets into one 'MediterrAsian' diet -- so I literally get the best of both worlds.
I didn't come up with this concept alone. In fact it was an extraordinary set of circumstances that led me to follow a MediterrAsian way of eating in the first place.
My parents are both medical doctors, so I've always had a natural interest in health and healthy living. But it wasn't until I was introduced to authentic Asian cuisine by my Chinese-Malaysian sister-in-law in my late teens that I discovered that healthy food and delicious food could be one in the same. This was a revelation to me, and I've been hooked on Asian food ever since.
Then, in my early twenties, I met and fell in love with Ric. Like me, Ric was very interested in health and healthy living. That was mainly because he'd lost his own health following a near-fatal motorcycle accident six years earlier. After lots of struggle and pain, he only fully regained his health by adopting a Mediterranean diet. When we met, I introduced Ric to Asian cooking and he introduced me to Mediterranean cooking. We ended up bonding over pad Thai and paella!
We also discovered there were so many benefits to eating a combined diet of Mediterranean and Asian foods. One of the biggest benefits was for our taste buds! So many of the world's most mouth-watering foods originate from Mediterranean and Asian regions, including pasta, pizza, risotto, sushi, curries, and stir-fries. So we never felt deprived. And the health benefits were also extraordinary. From getting us in the best shape of our lives to improving our cholesterol and blood pressure, and giving us bucket loads of energy.
What Exactly Makes MediterrAsian Eating So Health Giving?
Actually, we've discovered there are a number of important reasons. Unlike modern Western diets that are full of highly processed foods, traditional Mediterranean and Asian diets are based on a foundation of minimally processed plant foods. These vegetables, fruits, grains and beans are bulky and filling but are generally low to moderate in calories. Fish and shellfish, which are also traditional Mediterranean and Asian staples, are also quite low in calories and are a good source of hunger-suppressing protein. So, these foods fill us up long before they fill us out. They also more than counter-balance the higher calorie foods we do eat, such as olive oil, nuts and cheese. This means we end up feeling comfortably full after a meal, without consuming more calories than our bodies need.
Traditional Mediterranean and Asian foods are also overflowing with health-promoting compounds including dietary fibre (which also happens to be one of nature’s best appetite suppressants), omega-3 fatty acids, phytochemicals and antioxidants.
But there's another big reason why combining Mediterranean and Asian eating practices make so much sense. And it comes down to how the foods in these traditional diets affect our genes.
Scientific research in recent years has found that many foods common in Mediterranean and Asian diets (such as olive oil, red wine, turmeric, green tea, dark chocolate and soyfoods) are rich in natural plant compounds that activate a type of gene in the body called sirtuins. Studies have found that sirtuins play a fundamental role in extending cellular life and the repair of DNA. They also inhibit fat storage and increase fat metabolism.
That's why a diet rich in sirtuin-activating foods, or "sirtfoods," is being recommended by a growing number of health experts. In fact, Adele credits much of her dramatic weight loss with following a diet rich in sirtfoods.
So if you want to get healthy and in shape, reduce your risk of chronic disease and live longer -- all while enjoying a wide range of delicious foods -- we highly recommend you give a MediterrAsian way of eating a go.
-- Trudy Thelander is co-author of the acclaimed cookbook, The MediterrAsian Way, and co-creator of the newly-released mobile cooking app, The MediterrAsian Table.