The Mediterranean Diet

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The Mediterranean Diet.

Myths, Facts, and Health Benefits of a Mediterranean Diet
When you think about Mediterranean food, your mind probably goes to pizza and pasta from Italy, or hummus and pita from Greece, but these dishes don’t exactly fit into any healthy dietary plans advertised as “Mediterranean.” The reality is that a true Mediterranean diet consists mainly of fruits and vegetables, seafood, olive oil, hearty grains, and more—foods that help fight against heart disease, certain cancers, diabetes, and cognitive decline. It’s a diet worth chasing; making the switch from pepperoni and cheese to fish and avocados may take some effort, but you could soon be on a path to a healthier and longer life.

What is a “Mediterranean diet”?
Pizza, gyros, falafel, lasagna, rack of lamb, and long loaves of white bread: all these foods have become synonymous with what we call “Mediterranean.” We picture huge, three-hour feasts with multiple courses and endless bottles of wine. But over the past 50 years, Americans and others have altered the idea of Mediterranean fare, ramping up the meat, saturated fat, and calories at the expense of the region’s traditional fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, seafood, olive oil, small amounts of dairy, and a glass or two of red wine. What was once a healthy and inexpensive way of eating back then is now associated with heavy, unhealthy dishes that contribute to heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and other chronic diseases.

After World War II, a study led by Ancel Keys of the Mayo Foundation examined the diets and health of almost 13,000 middle-aged men in the US, Japan, Italy, Greece (including Crete), the Netherlands, Finland, and Yugoslavia. Remarkably, well-fed American men had higher rates of heart disease than those in countries whose diets had been restricted by the deprivations of war. It was the men of Crete, arguably the poorer people of the study, who enjoyed the best cardiovascular health. This was due to physical labor and their unique food pyramid.

The Mediterranean Diet Pyramid is based on the dietary traditions of Crete, Greece, and southern Italy circa 1960 at a time when the rates of chronic disease among populations there were among the lowest in the world, and adult life expectancy was among the highest, even though medial services were limited.

Aside from eating a diet consisting mainly of fresh and homegrown foods instead of processed goods, other vital elements to the Mediterranean diet are daily exercise, sharing meals with others, and fostering a deep appreciation for the pleasures of eating healthy and delicious foods.


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Myths and facts of a Mediterranean diet
Following a Mediterranean diet has many benefits, but there are still a lot of misconceptions on exactly how to take advantage of the lifestyle to lead a healthier, longer life. The following are some myths and facts about the Mediterranean diet.

Myth 1: It costs a lot to eat this way.
Fact: If you’re creating meals out of beans or lentils as your main source of protein, and sticking with mostly plants and whole grains, then the Mediterranean diet is less expensive than serving dishes of meat, cheese, and processed foods.

Myth 2: If one glass of wine is good for your heart, than three glasses is three times as healthy.
Fact: Moderate amounts of red wine (one drink a day for women; two for men) certainly has unique health benefits for your heart, but drinking too much has the opposite effect. Anything more than two glasses of wine can actually be bad for your heart.

Myth 3: Eating large bowls of pasta and bread is the Mediterranean way.
Fact: Typically, Mediterraneans don’t eat a heaping plate of pasta the way Americans do. Instead, pasta is usually a side dish with about a 1/2-cup to 1-cup serving size. The rest of their plate consists of salads, vegetables, a small portion of meat, and perhaps one slice of bread.

Myth 4: If you follow the traditional Mediterranean diet then you will lose weight.
Fact: Those living on Greek islands don’t enjoy good cardiovascular health just by eating differently; they walk up and down steep hills to tend to their garden and animals, often living off what they can grow themselves. Physical labor plays a large role.

Myth 5: The Mediterranean diet is only about the food.
Fact: The food is a huge part of the diet, yes, but don’t overlook the other ways the Mediterraneans life their lives. When they sit down for a meal, they don’t sit in front of a television or eat in a rush; they sit down for a relaxed, leisurely meal with others, which may be just as important for your health as what’s on your plate.

Health benefits of a Mediterranean diet
A traditional Mediterranean diet consisting of large quantities of fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, fish and olive oil—coupled with physical activity—reduces the risk of heart disease, certain cancers, diabetes, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases. More specifically:

Protecting against type 2 diabetes. A Mediterranean diet is rich in fiber, slowing down digestion and preventing huge swings in blood sugar.

Preventing heart disease and strokes. Refined breads, processed foods, and red meat are discouraged in a Mediterranean diet, and it encourages drinking red wine instead of hard liquor, which have all been linked to heart disease and stroke prevention.

Keeping you agile. The nutrients gained with a Mediterranean diet may reduce a senior’s risk of developing muscle weakness and other signs of frailty by about 70 percent.

Reducing risk of Alzheimer’s. Researchers speculate that the Mediterranean diet may improve cholesterol and blood sugar levels and overall blood vessel health—all factors that may reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.

Halving the risk of Parkinson’s disease. In a diet containing high levels of antioxidants that prevent cells from undergoing a damaging process called oxidative stress, the risk of Parkinson’s disease is practically cut in half.

Increased longevity. When there is a reduction in developing heart disease or cancer, as in the case when you follow a Mediterranean diet, there is a 20% reduced risk of death at any age.

How to make the change

If you’re feeling daunted by the thought of changing your eating habits to a Mediterranean diet, here are some suggestions to get you started:

  • Eat lots of vegetables. Try a simple plate of sliced tomatoes drizzled with olive oil and crumbled feta cheese, or load your pizza with peppers and mushrooms instead of sausage and pepperoni. Salads, soups, and crudité platters are also great ways to load up on vegetables.
  • Change the way you think about meat. If you eat meat, have smaller amounts and leaner cuts. Put small strips of chicken on your salad, or add diced prosciutto to a whole-wheat pasta dish.
  • Always eat breakfast. Fruits, whole grains, and other fiber-rich foods are a great way to start your day, keeping you pleasantly full for hours.
  • Eat seafood twice a week. Fish such as tuna, salmon, herring, and sardines are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, and shellfish like mussels, oysters, and clams have similar benefits for brain and heart health.
  • Cook a vegetarian meal one night a week. If it’s helpful, you can jump on the “Meatless Mondays” trend of foregoing meat on the first day of the week, or simply pick a day where you build meals around beans, whole grains, and vegetables. Once you get the hang of it, try two nights a week. Be sure not to load up on cheese, though.
  • Use good fats. Extra-virgin olive oil, nuts, sunflower seeds, olives, and avocados are great sources of healthy fats for your daily meals. Some vegetable oils higher in polyunsaturated fats—like sunflower, safflower, soybean, and corn oil—are more heart-healthy than the mostly monounsaturated fats in olive oil.
  • Enjoy some dairy products. Try small amounts of cheese, and eat Greek or plain yogurt. You want to make sure to choose low-fat or fat-free dairy products.
  • For dessert, eat fresh fruit. Instead of ice cream or cake, opt for strawberries, fresh figs, grapes, or apples.

Quick start to a Mediterranean diet
There is new, even stronger research backing up the Mediterranean diet as a way to prevent vascular disease. The diet includes generous quantities of olive oil, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and fish; limited portions of red meats or processed meats; and moderate amounts of cheese and wine. So how can you make the switch? Start with small steps, jump-starting your effort with these top five tips:

  1. Sauté food in olive oil, not butter.
  2. Eat more fruits and vegetables by having them as a snack, or adding them to other recipes.
  3. Choose whole grains instead of refined breads and pastas.
  4. Substitute fish for red meat at least twice per week.
  5. Limit high-fat dairy by switching to skim or 1% milk from 2% or whole milk.
Let’s start cooking!!!
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Wine Lovers

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How to become a Wine Connoisseur.

If you’re an oenophile (a lover of wine), you’re probably wondering what’s keeping you from becoming a true connoisseur. Luckily, you don’t have to be a wine-maker or have a basement cellar in order to appreciate fine wine. With a notebook and a few bottles handy, you’ll be well on your way.

Building Your Wine Know-How
Drink wine with the 4 S’s in mind. Even if you don’t know much about wine, you probably know that there’s a certain way you’re supposed to drink it. Truly, you can drink it however you want – but to get the most out of its aroma and taste, a legitimate art has been formed. Here are the basics in four steps:

  • See it. Examine the color. If it’s older, a white will be darker and a red will be lighter (by and large). The color can also tell you a bit about the aging processed use. A Chardonnay, for example, will be more golden if aged in oak barrels.
  • Swirl it. Coat the sides of the glass by swirling the wine around gently. This releases the aroma, helping you truly taste what’s in front of you.
  • Smell it. If it’s white, look for citrus-y or tropical notes, like lemon and lime, or even melon. You may also be able to detect vanilla or oak. Generally speaking, cooler places produce more citrus-y, tangy wines. If it’s red, look for berry or plum scents. Cooler places will fall on the red berry side of the spectrum (like strawberry and cherry), while warmer places will showcase darker scents, like blackberry or plum. You’ll also find coffee, smoke, and chocolate as major contenders.
  • Sip it. This will be a combination of taste and smell. As you sip it, simply ask yourself whether or not you like it. Then you can move onto why.

Know your tannins and terroir. Oenophiles and connoisseurs will throw around the term “tannin.” This is a textural element of wine that makes it “dry.” Try a very “dry” wine, and you’ll get the sense for what this word means (obviously any liquid isn’t actually dry). Tannins are naturally occurring in grapes (and bark and wood and leaves, actually) and they add a bitterness, astringency, and complexity to a wine’s flavor. For the record, this applies mostly to red wines.

  • “Terroir” is basically the wine’s background – the climate and soil type of where it was grown, the topography, and what other plants were growing in the area. This largely influences the grapes. After all, some wines (American) are bottled by grape, sure, but others (European) are bottled just by region. Terroir is what makes a wine, well, itself.

Get your temperatures right. Each type of wine should be served at a slightly different temperature for its best taste to surface. Here’s what you should know before you throw that wine-tasting gala and invite all your friends over to your house:

  • Red wine should be served at room temperature, or about 68°-77°F (20-25° C)
  • Pink or rosé wines should be served slightly chilled around 44°-55°F (7-13° C)
  • White wine and sparkling wine should be kept in the fridge below 40°F (5°C)
  • After that wonderful wine-tasting party, make sure to drink light wines (less alcohol, around 11%) 3 days after opening. Bolder wines are fine for consumption up to 10 days.

Use the right glass. Each type of wine does best in a certain size and shape of glass to open up their aroma to the fullest. To do your wine justice, put it in the right glass:

  • A standard wine glass will do well for most reds. A Cabernet Sauvignon should have a slightly taller, narrower bowl, and make sure your Pinot Noir pour is just an ounce or two.
  • White wines are also good in standard glasses – but Chardonnay needs a slightly wider brim.
  • A Port needs to be in a large flute; Madeira should be in a large hock glass; Sherry is best in a narrow martini-esque glass.
  • Vintage sparkling wines are best in a coupe, tulip, or flute.

Know how to hold the glass, too. You will never be mistaken for a wine connoisseur if you’re holding your glass incorrectly. To look like an expert, holding and swilling wine like it’s your job, make sure to hold the glass by its stem. This goes double for white wines that are chilled – you don’t want the heat of your hands warming the bowl, altering the taste.

  • To swirl the wine around the bowl, rotate at your wrist, not your entire arm. The smell of the wine will then fill the bowl of the glass, opening up its flavor profile.

Familiarize yourself with how to describe a wine’s aroma. Being a wine connoisseur is mainly about being able to describe what you’re tasting and recognize what’s happening on your palette. To get at a wine’s aroma, there are generally five categories: fruity, mineral, dairy and nutty, sweet and wooden, and spicy and savory. Here’s what “flavors” fall under each:

  • Fruity. Pretty much any fruit, including the aroma of jam
  • Mineral. Flint, stones, earthen, gasoline
  • Dairy and nutty. Butter, cream, yeast, bread, toast, grilled nuts, biscuits, almonds
  • Sweet and wooden. Chocolate, toffee, butterscotch, honey, vanilla, oak, and cedar
  • Spicy and savory. Tobacco, smoke, licorice, pepper, truffles, bacon, coffee, cinnamon

Cultivating a Taste
Go to a wine shop and ask the staff for recommendations. Look for bottles of wine with write-ups near them, award citations and high magazine ratings. Try to go when you know the store is holding a tasting with samples – for many, this is on Saturday mornings. Pick the staff’s brains – what are their favorites and why?

  • Come in with a meal plan in mind. That way you can buy wines that match the taste of the food you’re serving and start exploring combinations. As a general rule of thumb, red wines go with red meat; white wines go with white meat. And champagne goes with just about everything, but master the basics first.

Attend a local wine tasting or a wine appreciation class. These are held at adult schools, wine-making schools, wineries, and fine restaurants. Don’t feel intimidated – many people who think they can distinguish between a $2 bottle of dirt and a nice vintage often can’t.

  • If you visit a winery, make time to go in for more than just the tasting. You’ll learn how wine is made, see how the grapes are grown and be taught the proper procedure for drinking wine.

Join a wine group. Wine is trendy. There are wine bars, wine stores, wine newsletters, and even wine podcasts. Finding a group of wine-lovers in your area is probably much easier than you think it is. Finding like-minded people who have connections and know what’s going on in the area is the first step to developing your expertise.

  • Most groups have individuals at all levels – from those that want to buy their own winery to those who just like drinking wine. There will be a place for you in yours.

Have an informal tasting at home, a friend’s house, or a BYOB restaurant where each person brings a different bottle of wine. This way you can taste a bunch of different things without spending a lot of money. And, not to mention, you get a great deal of wine experience (and wine!).

  • Make sure you have palette cleansers to munch on or drink between sips. Stick to bland crackers (like water crackers) or bread (a plain french loaf; nothing grainy) and water. Graber olives and rare roast beef are also sometimes used. Stay away from cheeses and fruits that are normally served with wines, as those will mask the true flavor of each.

Developing Your Palette
Start exploring wine varieties. Many people start with a fruity white white that is subtle in flavor and some happen to stop there. You probably have a couple of wines that you know are safe – so start branching out! Move onto rose wines, and start busting into reds with a vengeance. Even if you don’t like it, now you know if you like it or not.

  • Not only should you switch up varieties, but switch up brands and years, too. Just because you dislike one producer’s Chardonnay doesn’t mean you won’t like another’s. Every wine is unique – and it can depend on your mood, too.

Find your “Aha!” wine. Plenty of people spend years in the realm of, “Oh, I don’t really care for robust reds,” or “Moscato is just too sweet,” and their expertise and understanding stops there. And then bam – an “aha” wine hits. It’s that wine where you can actually taste the cedar, or the smoke, or the chocolate. All of a sudden, you get it. And how do you find your “aha” wine? Trial and error.

  • And an “aha” wine doesn’t have to be good or, rather, one you enjoy. It simply has to be one where all of a sudden your palette gets it. It can sort out the variety of aromas in a single glass and knows what it likes and dislikes and better yet, why.

Start researching. Now that you’ve got your feet wet, start going outside of your own circle for information. Read books and blogs on wine. Try The New Sotheby’s Wine Encyclopedia by Tom Stevenson or wineeducation.com, where you can even take quizzes on your growing wine knowledge. Purchase wine guides. Subscribe to wine magazines. The possibilities are almost endless.

  • Subscribe to free, informative online wine newsletters. Do a quick Google search for reputable websites that are devoted to building a community of wine lovers.
  • GrapeRadio is a podcast devoted to wine – even in the midst of rush hour, you could be honing your skills.

Get bolder and bolder. So you’ve got the taste of a Pinot Grigio down. You know the difference between a good Merlot and a good Cabernet. But there’s so much more to it than that. You’ve done the basics, so let’s get bold. Here’s a few to try:

  • Syrah / Shiraz
  • Malbec
  • Petite Sirah
  • Mourvedre / Monastrell
  • Touriga Nacional
  • Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Petit Verdot

Becoming a True Connoisseur
Start widening your “wine-describing” vocabulary. The difference between someone who loves wine and someone who is a wine connoisseur is largely the fact that they can confidently talk about it to others (and accurately, to boot). Here’s a few goals to hit when describing your next few glasses:

  • You can name more than 2 fruits as flavors in the wine
  • You can name more than 3 other characteristics such as cinnamon, oregano, roses, chalk or baking spices
  • The palate of the wine changes from the moment you taste it to the moment you swallow, and you can identify how

Try sparkling wines, ice wines and dessert wines. You’ve gone bold, now let’s go a bit off the main path: try other wines, like sparkling, dessert, and ice wines (ice wines are made from grapes that have experienced a frost). They’re not the wines you’ll be experiencing with a main course at a 5-star restaurant, but they’re important nonetheless.

  • Experience wines from a variety of countries and various locales, such as a New Zealand and British wines, or wines from South Dakota and Idaho. Don’t just stick to Californian wines or European wines – even when it comes to sweet, dessert wines.

Learn about different grape varieties. Traditionally fine wine was made from mainly French grape varieties, but now a much wider range of grape varieties are being used. Wineries are popping up all over the place, and the “terroir” of your average grape is changing. How do you feel about each region and variety?

  • France, Italy, Spain, China,Turkey, and the US are the main producers of wine (though they are by no means the only), and each have specific varieties of grapes that are able to grown in their respective regions. Because of this, wines from different areas of the world will taste different. What’s your take on them?

Go back to the basics. Now that you’re a world traveler when it comes to wine, go back to the very first wines you tried. There will be such difference you’ll wonder who the person was that tasted it originally, or how it’s possible the wine has completely morphed – but it’s undeniable that it has. Take that basic Chardonnay that’s been sitting in your cupboard and take a sip, basking in your progress.

  • It’ll become evident to you how much your palette has changed. It’ll also become evident which wines you love and which you won’t even bother trying anymore. For a real challenge, get blind taste-testing glasses and see if you remain consistent.

Look for a wine school in your area. Most host courses or tastings, offering you some sort of “certificate” or “accreditation” upon finishing. Local adult schools and restaurants also hold wine appreciation classes. When people ask if you know wine, you can mention that you’ve even studied it.

  • Though, for the record, just like anything else, you don’t need school to become a connoisseur. It’s just an easy way to prove that you know your stuff.

Take the Court of Masters test. In America, to be a master sommelier, you need to take the Court of Masters test. There’s a course you can take (you have to apply), though you can take the test without taking the course. This is as high as you can get in the wine world – and it comes with quite the badge of respect.

  • They also offer international courses. Currently there are only 140 Master Sommeliers in North America. Ready to be the next?

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Food & Wine

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“Parliamo Italiano” – Events & Meetups.

Language Exchange.

Do you want to practice a foreign language and have the opportunity for a real language and cultural exchange? We are a group of people that get together to practice and work on languages! Join us at our weekly language exchange meetings to brush up on a foreign language and learn something completely new about another culture!

Our members split into smaller practice groups to improve their French, Italian, German, English, Spanish, Portuguese, Korean, Japanese, Chinese and many other languages, and you can also help other members to improve in your native language and learn your culture!

We will also have other evening and cultural events such as ethnic restaurant events, cultural activity events, cultural related classes, outdoor picnics and happy hours to promote language practice and cultural exchange!

Dinner Parties.

Welcome to our group. We’re a dining and discussion group that meets regularly for dinner and interesting conversation. The group was started to bring together people who like dining together and having the kinds of discussions they don’t get enough of elsewhere. Our dinners are held at low key restaurants that have good food and facilitate good group communication. In addition, we may also go to movies, lectures, or other events that engender thoughtful discussion at a restaurant afterwards.
Our events won’t necessarily have a particular discussion topic, but an “ice breaker” question may be suggested as a way of introducing yourself to the group.

… Let’s meet strangers and acquaintances during intimate dinners and make new friends in this great city we live in. Let’s travel, dine, drink wine, watch movies, and cook together. Let’s share life experiences and meet similar minds.
Let’s give back to the community and have fun doing it. I hope to meet with you soon!

Let’s just make it easy, dinner, brunch, drinks, wine tasting, happy hours, make new friends, meet new people! I’m originally from Italy and want to try out as many of the best restaurants with other foodies like me. I actually like having great conversations with all our members new or regular does not matter. The events are mostly small enough to make it easy to get a table and intimate enough to really get to know each other.

So invite your friends to join us and help make this group great! Don’t forget, your suggestions are always welcome, so feel free to share your thoughts with us.

Wine Tasting.

This meetup group has been created for like minded people to get together and enjoy wine. The true essence is to have fun, enjoy meeting new people that have a similar interest and taste new wines. You do not need to be a wine expert just someone that enjoys wine and socializing.
Let’s explore wines together through wine tasting, wine route tours, visiting wineries, discussions.

All you need to do is to appreciate wine, share your thoughts/wine recommendations with us. All wine lovers are welcome, from new bouquet-sniffers to educated connoisseurs. This group is for people who enjoy wine! Whether you are a novice or an expert we are looking to get together with people who appreciate and want to continue learning more about our passions…wine! The goal is to have at least one event per month where we come together to try new and interesting wines from all over the world, hopefully pair them with some fun foods, and enjoy some great conversations with fellow wine lovers. Every meet up will be a fun, interactive, and affordable way to meet new people, try some great wines, and learn some fun facts. So if you like wine and you like meeting new people then this group is for you! Hope to see you at the next meet up.

Group Cooking.

This group is for people who love to cook good food – or would like to learn how – in a group setting! We meet at a host’s house (anybody can host – we’ll do this in turns, but no obligations) and each person brings ingredients for and cooks a part of the meal (appetizer / entree / dessert). Cookware is provided by the host. We will do this by theme – Italian, Indian, 15-minute-or-less, French, Mexican, Dessert only, and any others that members suggest. We then pair the food with great wine and have a nice dinner party! Cooks can bring one non-cook person as well to each event. And hosts can add to the dinner party if they like – dinner party games, music,or even a movie night post-dinner. We plan to have many fun dinner party nights and to making some great new friends! This is a great way to indulge in your passion for cooking or to just learn how to cook something new – all while having a fun time!

Are you an adventurous cook who likes exploring new recipes? Do you enjoy trying the great foods of the country and the world? Are you open to sharing your culinary creations with other adventurous diners? Would you enjoy hosting dinner parties, especially if the guests do most of the cooking? Is so, then this meetup group might be for you. We would like to organize dinner parties, rotating the venue amongst the members’ homes. The size of the party will depend on the space that a host has available. Each dinner party will be a themed dinner, with the host choosing a cuisine from a particular region of the U.S. or the cuisine of another country. Participants would research recipes, cook together or bring a dish prepared by them, consistent with the theme, and a bottle of wine or other theme appropriate beverage to share. We will have a dinner party every four to six weeks depending on the enthusiasm of the members and the availability of hosts. The group welcomes couples and singles. The only requirement is a willingness to create and share good food with good company.

Links:

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