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A Mediterranean diet in Mumbai

| DYUTI BASU
Published : May 9, 2016, 11:22 pm IST
Updated : May 9, 2016, 11:22 pm IST

A summer culinary ritual —The Mediterranean Diet Month is here. Nutritionists tell us how you can customise the exotic spread to suit your city.

Mediterranean Diet
 Mediterranean Diet

A summer culinary ritual —The Mediterranean Diet Month is here. Nutritionists tell us how you can customise the exotic spread to suit your city.

The month of May has been celebrated as the Mediterranean Diet Month since the past five years by a Boston based NGO, Oldways. Unlike restrictive fad diets, the Mediterranean way of eating is simple and wholesome, claim its makers. The diet plan consists of a high content of detoxifying food types like whole grains and legumes, colourful fruits and vegetables, spices, cheese, lean meat like chicken and fish, red wine, occasional red meat and, of course, lots of olive oil and olives for a healthy source of fat. While Mumbai is far-removed from the coastal paradise of the Mediterranean countries, nutritionists believe that many aspects of their diet could be beneficial for a Mumbaikar.

‘A fibre rich diet is always recommended’

Khushboo Sahijwani

Fitness expert Khushboo Sahijwani, fully advocates the Mediterranean diet. She says, “You have food that is rich in fibre, like whole grains and legumes, which increase the fibre levels and HDL (good cholesterol) and reduces harmful cholesterol or LDL. It can definitely be used as a substitute to our current diet.”

She adds, “Promoting healthy oils like canola or olive oil instead of refined oils, and light, lean meats like fish and chicken instead of red meat which is recommended only about once a month, is bound to make for a great diet,” Khushboo explains.

Recipe: Khusboo suggests a pasta salad cooked with whole grain pasta. Just boil the pasta, toss it with olive oil and blanched vegetables like mushrooms, bell peppers and zucchini for fibre and vitamins. Season it with dried parsley, basil and oregano instead of salt. For those who drink alcohol, a single glass of red wine is recommended instead of hard liquor.

‘Summers are a good time for lighter dishes’

Niti Desai

Nutritionist Niti Desai advises adding Mediterranean elements to the diet rather than swapping the desi one for it. “The problem with a lot of Indians is that they follow a vegetarian diet or hardly opt for meat,” she explains. Niti, however, does believe that the month of May is a great time for trying out a new diet plan. She says, “Summers are a good time to experiment and try out lighter, tropical dishes.”

Recipe Niti recommends a mixed vegetable salad, as an addition to an Indian meal or as a complete meal in itself. “Use fresh vegetables like red cabbage, carrots and beets, nuts, flax seed powder, sesame seeds, and bean sprouts like boiled channa. Mix an olive oil and lemon vinaigrette dressing, and toss it all together for a salad, which will be inclusive of all the food groups.

‘Mediterranean foods are packed with antioxidants’

Tripti Gupta

Nutrition and lifestyle consultant Tripti Gupta explains that a fruit and vegetable-heavy diet like the Mediterranean diet is perfect for a summer cleanse. “While I would not recommend completely substituting the Indian diet with a Mediterranean one, I think that it’s a great plan to look into for a week-long summer cleanse. Many of their dishes, especially the vegetarian dishes, have antioxidants and also act as cooling agents.”

She goes on to explain that while many Mediterranean food items are considered rare or exotic in India, there are easy substitutes. At the heart of many Mediterranean dishes are olives and olive oil, and they are not as indispensable as you would think. Tripti says that the main nutritional value of olives and olive oil are the omega 3 fats and vitamin E, which can also be found in sunflower seed oil, or natural nuts like almonds and walnuts. “You can go for a glass of buttermilk instead of full fat yoghurt for calcium and protein,” she says. “Coconut water, aam panna, ripe mango juice and sugarcane juice can easily replace juices and fruits like oranges and kiwi which are not as easily available in the summer months.”

Recipe: She suggests a great summer-friendly Mediterranean drink which anyone with a mixer and an access to the local market can make. “Take carrot, beetroot, pomegranate seeds and amla in a mixer, add some water and mix them together. You can serve the juice without straining it. Add in a squeeze of lemon, and some black salt or honey for taste.”