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Spain’s Healthiest Foods: To Be Enjoyed In Excess

How to Bring Sunny Spain to Your Next Healthy Meal

“There is no night life in Spain. They stay up late but they get up late. That is not night life. That is delaying the day.” (LOL-thanks Ernest Hemingway!)

Here I am in cold and cloudy Pau reminiscing about our family’s week-long break in sunny Valencia Spain. It is hard to forget this beautiful country, even if the current economic crises in Spain made me feel perplexed and sad for the far too many empty restaurants and beaches in this gorgeous tourist area. (Por favor go visit Spain, you won’t be disappointed.)


This article is how to sip and savor a taste of sunny Spain (and enjoy a burst of healthy food habits) no matter where in the world you live. Here is how to take and make the healthiest foods of Spain direct to your next plate.

Just a bit of history….

The Spanish culture and foods are deeply rooted in a Mediterranean theme. Spain is surrounded almost entirely by water-the sea on one side, the ocean on the other with the Pyrenees Mountains to the north. Breakfast and dinner are light and late. Lunch is the main meal, served around 3 pm and finished off with a 15 minute siesta.

Si, we ate like kings. Not expensively, but meals filled with taste and freshness (and that I don’t know how to say it but that feeling that food was cleansing the body). Spain has a plethora of produce and dishes cultivated and prepared from the lands of sun and hard work.

Here are my favorites and my advice on how to live a bit of Spain: hoy y mañana.

Spanish Olive Oil

Spanish olive oil has a fruity flavored taste valued for medicinal properties. Best if eaten raw (as in a vinaigrette or poured on tapas (see below). The highest health benefits come from extra virgin olive oil, cold first pressed. Olive oil, being high in monounsaturated fatty acids can help reduce cholesterol levels when eaten as a substitute for other fatty foods.
  • My advice-do like the Spanish and bath with the golden oil (just kidding-but the cheap prices of olive oil see picture above about 13$ for about a gallon make it easier for the Spanish to use HUGE quantities in their cooking and as toppings). Why not use olive oil as a substitute for butter? Buy a good quality Spanish olive oil and surprise yourself on the lighter taste. Don’t be afraid to bring it on baby. Making an omelet? Throw a tablespoon in the pan and prepare your eggs. Making some tapas? Rain on the oil. You get the picture.

Want to order your own gallon size olive oil? You can click on this image to have your large quantity of olive oil direct to your house.

Spanish Sherry Vinegar

Sherry vinegar (or Vinagre de Jerez like you see in the picture) is linked to the production of wines of Jerez. The authentic sherry vinegar is fermentated in American oak barrels for at least six months and has a strong taste and aroma. Sherry vinegar is ideal for vinaigrette and salad dressings and for flavoring various foods.

  • My advice-look for authentic Spanish sherry vinegar. Pay a bit more for good quality, you won’t be disappointed on how using a small amount of these precious vinegar adds a whopping to the taste. Mix it in a vinaigrette for salad dressings. Throw it in your gazpacho (see below!). Experiment with soups and stews. You will adore the real taste of this sherry vinegar.

(Here is a sherry vinegar that is aged, authentic and from Jerez grapes. You can order from many countries from clicking on the image.)

(Or you can visit Spain direct and enjoy your vinagre de Jerez directly!)

Spanish Sherry Vinegar

Gazpacho

Gazpacho is a cold tomato soup and has cucumbers, red bell peppers, garlic and onions blended in it too. Make and taste some gazpacho on a hot day. If you don’t feel cleansed come and yell at me! Gazpacho has many health benefits including lowering high blood pressure and getting necessary dietary antioxidants.

  • My advice-get out the blender! Making gazpacho is a great way to use up those big quantities of summer tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers. Need an inspiration? Here is my recipe for Garden State Gazpacho published last summer.
Garden State Gazpacho

 

Tapas

Tapas are tiny bites open-topped sandwiches, meant to be enjoyed as an apéritif or starter of a meal (although now they are the latest meal trend and are not just enjoyed as an apéritif). They are available at Spanish bars or at restaurants that specialize in tapas. Here is a description of tapas from the Reluctant Gourmet and some authentic tapas recipes.

  • My advice-Tapas are healthy, fun, delicious and a great weight control technique. Take a look at some of the recipes above and experiment with a few light (and bathed in olive oil!) tapas to try at your house. How does eating tapas help with weight control? By eating them the Spanish way, on small plates at the start of a meal. Eat a few tapas and just listen to your hunger cues. Why not have tapas as a meal too? The world is open!

Almonds

Spain is the second largest producer of almonds in the world. Almonds are the base for the famous Turrón nougat that is produced in Alicante. We were able to visit the factory where this delicious nougat is made.


  • My advice-add almonds to your diet. You can try the famous Turrón candy that is sold worldwide (under the brand call El Lobo or 1880) that is filled with almonds. An even healthier option is the adding almonds as your nutritious snack. Almonds are a good source of healthy fats and eating nuts in place of animal fats will also lower your dietary and blood cholesterol. Add them to your diet by toasting them for topping salads, grind them to top fish dishes, or why not just pop a few in your mouth when you need to cut the hunger edge? (PS-Nuts are a great snack too for children over three years old).

Red Wine

Spanish red wines are rich and complement the food of the country, in particular with some delicacies such as Iberia ham (considered the highest quality ham in the world). Red wine, with its tannins is a source of antioxidants and is heart and body healthy. Spain is the most widely planted wine-producing nation in the world (I didn’t know this, did you?) but lags behind France and Italy for wine production. Some of the most well known red wines include the grape called Tempranillo used in Rioja wines.

  • My advice-Wash the delicious Spanish food down with some Spanish wines. Most wine stores will carry Spanish wines in a separate section. Experiment and pick up a bottle or two to try. If you are enjoying a seafood meal, a better choice is a Spanish drier white wine or a rosé wine.

Hope you enjoyed a small tidbit of Spanish food, drink and culture. If you are Spanish or have your own Spanish story to tell, please leave some feedback below. If you think this article can interest someone, I would appreciate if you could share it. Contact me with any questions or suggestions.

As the Spanish say, Buen Provecho! Good appetite!

Interestingly, my kids (oldest is 14 years old) had the impression that Spain was a rich country. Rich with a quality of life that buzzed with energy. Despite these tough times, the Spaniards continued their daily early evening promenade together with friends or family, the Spanish children continued to laugh and play, and the scenery looked bright when shined with the strong light of the never ending sun next to the sea.

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