The Mediterranean region, lush with it’s warmth, sunshine, and replete with fruits and vegetables has always been known for the health and longevity of it’s people. We admire the hillsides of olive groves, orchards, vineyards, and markets full of fresh fruit, tomatoes and greens. We strive for eternal youth, knowing that it does not exist, and yet our society continues to search for the secret of graceful aging. We long for that clear mind, supple body and personal dignity.
Current medical literature has explored the benefits of the Mediterranean lifestyle and we have discovered ingredients that may explain their health and longevity. Their diet, replete with fruits and vegetables, is now the recommended diet in the U.S. and is called the DASH diet. The updated Food Pyramid is built on fruits and vegetables as it’s base. We recommend fresh produce replete with Vitamins and Anti-oxidants for long-term prevention of many cancers and atherosclerosis which causes strokes and heart attacks. The American Heart Association recommends avoidance of animal fats and substitution with healthier Mono-Unsaturated plant fats such as olive oil, canola and peanut oil. We also attempt to direct our protein intake to plant protein found in beans, nuts, and soy. We recommend obtaining the important Omega-3-Fatty Acid Anti-oxidants from fish, and nuts, again avoiding animal saturated fats. Saturated fats are converted in the liver to oxidized LDL cholesterol, which then adheres to the endothelial lining of the blood vessels causing Arteriosclerosis, Heart attacks, Strokes and Dementia.
Aging is believed to be largely caused by damage to our cells from free radical chemical compounds which bombard our cells daily, punch holes in our cell membranes, and fracture our nuclear DNA. This leads to the oxidative process responsible for Atherosclerosis, Cancers, Dementia, Autoimmune conditions and Aging. We can retard this process by avoiding toxins such as smoking, and by eating foods replete with Anti-Oxidants.
Anti-Oxidants are compounds which are beneficial to the DNA of human cells by preventing the binding of carcinogens and the oxidation of bad LDL cholesterol. There are numerous groups of Antioxidants. The first are the Omega-3 Fatty Acids which are found in fish such as Salmon, Tuna, Sardines, nuts, soybeans and flaxseed and have been shown in clinical trials to prevent Sudden Death and Heart disease. These foods also contain Vitamin E an important anti-aging compound.
Other Anti-oxidants include Isoflavones found in soybeans, chickpeas, and diallyl disulfide, a potent tumor suppressor found in Alliums, such as garlic and onions. Additional beneficial vegetables include Cruciferates such as broccoli, arugula, and bok choy, and red and blue berries, grapes and rhubarb which contain Phenols and Anthocyanidins, potent free radical squelchers. Carotenoid or Vitamin A reduces free radical damage and is readily available in carrots, squash, and sweet potatoes. Lycopenes, found in tomatoes, watermelon and red grapefruit, prevent prostate cancer.
The goal to longevity is to is to fill our plates with fresh produce and health. Verano’s Cucina Lucchese will bring you the love of cooking and recipes full of freshness and yes, anti-oxidants. Enjoy the stories and the dishes as I have done for years with Verano.