SPANISH MEDITERRANEAN DIET - FOODS, RECIPES & BENEFITS
A way of eating based on traditional foods
Spanish spices and ingredients have been highly prized throughout history for enhancing the flavor of a myriad of dishes and they’re still popular today. Valued by home cooks and international chefs, those ingredients add color, flavor and visual appeal.
Virgin olive oil
Heart healthy extra virgin olive oil is an essential in Spanish cuisine and an indispensable ingredient for home cooks. It’s a versatile oil that’s equally appropriate for frying, baking, sautéing and in sauces and dressings. It has the added benefit of being heart healthy.
Virgin olive oil has its own unique taste and allows the flavors within any cuisine to shine through. Traditional extra virgin olive oil is harvested and pressed in a way that allows it to retain the highest level of beneficial properties that includes antioxidants, vitamin E, and anti-inflammatory elements.
La Mancha saffron
Saffron is an ancient spice, with three-fourths of the world supply originating in the La Mancha region of Spain. It’s brewed as a tea, used in soups and stews, rice and vegetarian dishes, and in meat and seafood.
La Mancha saffron has a host of health benefits. It’s a powerful antioxidant and rich in vitamin C and B6, along with minerals that includes iron, potassium, calcium, magnesium, zinc and selenium. It also aids in digestion.
Saffron blends well with a comprehensive range of other ingredients and is most often utilized in paellas, risottos and pilafs. The spice should be added early in the cooking process to ensure the saffron has time to infuse other ingredients. La Mancha saffron adds richness to any dish and a touch of luxury to everyday meals.
Authentic Spanish sherry vinegar is highlighted by vibrant, nutty accents. Two aged types are available. Reserva has been aged at least two years and Gran Reserva must be aged at least 10 years.
It’s a complimentary ingredient that blends especially well with honey and ginger, bacon fat and soy sauce. Sherry vinegar features a slightly sweet flavor that’s highly sought for use in dishes ranging from meat and vegetables to salsa, relish and desserts.
Pimentón de la Vera (smoked paprika)
A defining ingredient in Spanish cuisine, Pimentón de la Vera is smoked paprika, created from peppers that are harvested and dried over an oak fire for 15 days. It’s available in mild (sweet), medium and hot strengths that’s dependent upon whether the seeds and stems are removed or not. Authentic Pimentón de la Vera is stone ground in the traditional way to preserve aroma and flavor.
Pimentón de la Vera seasons with a smoky flavor and aroma that makes it a standout in the kitchen. It’s used in dishes encompassing meat and seafood, vegetables, soups and stews. It’s a colorful garnish for appetizers and rice dishes, but should be used with care as it’s a zesty spice that can be overwhelming when too much is added.
Superior Spanish cuisine
Extra virgin olive oil, La Mancha saffron, sherry vinegar ad Pimentón de la Vera are the four dish enhancing ingredients that no cook who appreciates Spanish and Mediterranean cooking should ever be without. The ingredients blend well with other spices and can be incorporated into dishes ranging from entrees and sides to desserts for flavoring or as a garnish to enhance the visual aspect.
Whether you call them snacks, appetizers or canapés, people around the world are enamored with the Spanish savories know as tapas and Jamon Ibérico and Spanish cheeses are the kings of tapas. The small snacks are traditionally served with alcoholic beverages and tapas bars have sprung up around the world.
A time honored Spanish tradition, a plate of tapas is often as simple as small slices of Jamon Ibérico accompanied by wedges of Spanish cheese that can be quickly prepared at home or they can be more elaborate gourmet cuisine frequently available at high-end restaurants. Tapas can be served hot or cold.
The legend of the tapa
Tapa is Spanish for lid or cover and two stories exist as to how the snacks originated. One tale says that in the 13th century, Alfonso X, King of Castile and Leon, ordered all the inns of the realm to serve a small bit of food with their drinks for digestive purposes.
Another version indicates Alfonso XIII stopped at an inn for a glass of sherry on a windy day. The innkeeper placed a slice of ham over the top of the glass to prevent sand and debris from blowing into the glass. The novel idea appealed to the king, who ordered another round of sherry and that the drinks come with a tapa.
In some areas, a slice of bread was used. When customers began eating the bread, a small sliver of Iberico ham or one of Spain’s many cheeses was added as a topping. The concept caught on and continues to this day as one of Spain’s most well-known traditions.
The iconic tapa
The debate as to what a true tapa is continues to this day. In Spain, a tapa will vary widely between regions and even among individual towns. The one criterion that chefs and aficionados can agree upon is that a tapa is a small bit of food and the size of the portion defines whether it’s a tapa or not.
Evening meals in Spain are traditionally eaten later than their European counterparts and tapas often provided a small snack to hold diners over until the meal was served. Today, individuals may consume a whole meal made of different types of tapas and tourists can even book tapa tours.
Tapas can range from a combination of meat, cheese, olive and onion on a toothpick to Iberico ham and Spanish cheese served on a plate or a chef-crafted creation of gourmet ingredients. In the tradition of those early innkeepers, tapa ingredients are typically those that are salty to encourage customers to purchase beverages.
In an effort to eat healthier, you may be tempted to try a variety of oils or the newest fads on the market. The important information home cooks need to know is that “fat” isn’t necessarily a bad word and that using unsaturated fats can aid in lowering cholesterol levels and help in reducing the risk of heart disease.
The body actually needs a certain amount of fat in the diet. Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are liquid when kept at room temperature, but turn solid if they’re chilled. Olive oil is an excellent source of monounsaturated fats.
In contrast, trans fats and saturated fats are “bad” fats and found in a wide variety of processed foods. They’re solid, but turn liquid or melt when exposed to high heat sources, whether it’s on the stove or during high room temperatures.
In addition to elevated cholesterol levels and an increased risk of heart disease, saturated fats also have an adverse effect on the brain and digestive system. High levels of saturated fats result in a decline in cognitive function that’s exacerbated as you get older and fats change the composition of digestive enzymes.
Saturated fats are detrimental to those who want to lose weight and can lead to a build-up of fatty material around organs and the body is more likely to store these types of fats in cells.
Unfortunately, many people have tried to limit all fats or switched to what they perceived was a healthier source of cooking oil. The result is that the balance between good and bad fats has been disrupted.
Extra virgin olive oil
Available for thousands of years in the Mediterranean region, extra virgin olive oil has been a staple in a variety of dishes throughout history. It wasn’t until recently that science had the technology to scientifically prove just how healthy olive oil is for the body.
Extra virgin olive oil has scientific data to back up its heart healthy reputation. It can be used for cooking and baking in the oven, stir frying, and salad dressings. It has a medium smoke point so it won’t smoke up the kitchen when you’re cooking.
Olive oil is also lower in calories than coconut oil. One tablespoon of olive oil has just 11 grams of monounsaturated fat and 1 gram of polyunsaturated fat.
If you’re looking for traditional virgin olive oil, be aware that some companies use refining equipment to extract the oil. Olive oil produced in this way contains the same fats, but it has a lower quantity of heart healthy compounds than cold pressed olive oil, this is, Extra Virgin Olive Oil.
It’s good for sauces, light sautéing, low heat baking and has a medium smoke point. It’s also high in saturated fat, but is less harmful than many other oil choices on the market. One tablespoon of coconut oil has 13 grams of saturated fats – that’s 60-80 percent of your daily recommended limit.
Coconut oil has become the “in” food through slick marketing campaigns, celebrity endorsements, and those who want to be trendy. Coconut oil contains substantial levels of saturated fats. Its chemical structure makes it effective in cooking when you want confections to hold their shape.
Created from the rapeseed plant, canola oil is less expensive than olive oil and coconut oil, but no labeling standards exist to tell consumers exactly what they’re getting. The oil is chemically extracted and undergoes a bleaching and refining process that can contain chemical solvents.
Canola oil contains no antioxidants and is often manufactured from genetically modified plants, but does have a higher smoking point than olive or coconut oil. The oil is a healthier alternative to coconut oil, but doesn’t have the benefits of olive oil.
Why olive oil is best
You can use olive oil for all your cooking and baking needs, it makes a light and tasty dressing, and it’s an excellent source of antioxidants, vitamin E, and omega 3 fatty acids. The nutrient value alone is one of the reasons the Mediterranean Diet featuring olive oil has been deemed by medical professionals to be so healthy.
Calasparra rice is substantially different than what most people are accustomed to. Natural, specialized breeding has produced a short, oval grain of rice with a low starch content. A native of Spain, it’s the best rice for cooking traditional paella, especially the Bomba variety.
The Bomba strain of Calasparra rice is grown without the use of herbicides, pesticides, and no chemicals are added when the grain is processed. Bomba is the most highly sought for Spanish dishes, particularly paella, and carries the protected designation of "Denominación de Origen".
The strain of rice produces low yields when compared to other varieties when grown for commercial use, making it one of the most costly and highest quality available. It’s an ancient line that takes substantial time to mature before it can be harvested. It’s sensitive, requires specialized care to flourish, and is only grown in a single region of Spain. For a time, it was feared the strain would go extinct.
The grain is able to absorb up to three times its volume in liquid without falling apart, making it perfect for letting flavors permeate the rice. The amount of liquid it absorbs means extra water is required for cooking. Unlike other types of rice that expand sideways when cooked, the Bomba variety expands length wise and maintains its shape, creating a more appealing appearance.
When preparing Bomba rice for cooking, don’t give it a rinse as it will affect the overall texture when it’s done. Approximately ½ a cup of rice (100g) should be used for each person. When fully cooked, the grains of rice should be separate from each other and never stuck together. A good way to determine when Bomba rice is done is to extract a grain and cut in in half. When there’s no clear difference between the outer grain of rice and the inside kernel, it’s done.
The unique properties of the Bomba variety of Calasparra rice has earned it a coveted place in its native Spain and around the world where haute cuisine is served. Its ability to absorb the flavors of the dishes it’s paired with, and superior ability to hold its shape, makes it a standout in any kitchen.
Known as Pimentón de la Vera in its native Spain, smoked paprika is a favorite for its appealing reddish-orange color and singular flavor that features sweet undertones. It’s a premiere spice that enjoys protection under the certification "Denominación de Origen" to ensure the highest quality. Only smoked paprika produced in the La Vera valley has earned the right to carry that designation.
Originally cultivated by Yuste Monastery monks, the spice is hand-picked and dried over an oak fire for 15 days to create Pimentón de la Vera. Spanish smoked paprika is still harvested as it was in the 16th century by the monks who pioneered the method.
It’s a pain-staking process that requires the peppers to be rotated every 24 hours to ensure that each pepper is dried evenly. When the peppers have dried sufficiently, their volume is reduced by approximately 75 percent. The stem and seeds are removed before being ground in a traditional stone mill to preserve the flavor and aroma. When the seeds are removed, the spice retains more of its sweet flavor.
Spanish paprika is available in varieties ranging from mild to hot:
However, due to its traditional processing techniques, Pimentón de la Vera has a very distinct smoky aroma and flavor that makes it especially popular for pairing with meats, adding interest to vegetable dishes, and for flavoring soups and stews. In the Galicia and Extremadura regions of Spain, it’s a favorite for elevating dishes in which octopus ("pulpo a feira") and breadcrumbs ("migas") are present.
It’s also used for coloring rice dishes. It’s an excellent garnish when sprinkled on soups, eggs, meat and fowl. Spanish paprika occupies a prominent place in traditional Spanish cuisine ranging from appetizers served with drinks to main course meat dishes at elegant restaurants.
Spanish Paprika is a particularly powerful spice and should be used with care to ensure dishes are flavorful, but not overpoweringly spicy. Heating is required to coax out the full flavor impact, but it should only be added to a recipe during low heat as it can scorch and burn easily.
Many people mistakenly associate paprika with Hungary and similar regions. The spice’s true journey to Spain is a fascinating story. Franciscan Monks sent as emissaries to spread the word of Christianity to the New World found a cornucopia of new plants that they brought back to Spain in the form of seeds. The paprika plants grown today are the descendants of those first plants.
Natural breeding and selection programs resulted in a variety of cultivars from the original plants. The traditional harvesting and curing methods of Pimentón de la Vera by paprika artisans has been used for generations and is responsible for the specialized flavor enjoyed today.
Pimentón de la Vera is an essential ingredient in Spanish cuisine and Mediterranean dishes of all types, but its appeal reaches around the globe. It’s highly prized by home cooks and by Michelin rated chefs and restaurants to add color, flavor and zest to any gastronomical delight.
The rice dish known around the world as paella comes in a variety of versions. The highly versatile dish is spiced with Spanish saffron to achieve its golden yellow color and can incorporate virtually any type of meat or seafood available, ranging from chicken, pork and rabbit to fish, squid or eel.
There are many stories about the origins of paella. In one version, servants of Moorish kings mixed together all the left-overs from banquets to take home and the resulting hodge-podge was paella. Modern paella didn’t appear until the mid-nineteenth century in an area near the city of Valencia, located in the east of Spain.
Most experts agree the name comes from the special pan in which it’s made called a patella. In Latin, it’s a flat plate used to make offerings to the gods. Workers would use a patella to cook the dish over an open fire while working in the fields, using any type of ingredients they could find, even snails.
There’s considerable debate over the origin and authenticity of paella within Spain and internationally. The first known recipe dates to 1857 and mentions the name "paella" specifically.
The basics of paella
A traditional paella pan is essential for the even distribution of heat. When cooking, the fire must begin very hot for browning the meat that will be used and the rice will simmer as the fire cools. Paella must be cooked over an open fire of charcoal or with a gas paella burner. Kits of paella pans, tripods and burners are available for making traditional paella.
Bomba rice from the eastern coast of Spain should be used for optimal results. It’s a round variety of rice that absorbs more liquid than other types. The recipe also requires Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Spanish saffron and Pimentón de la Vera – an artisan smoked paprika with a sweet or spicy taste - for authentic paella.
Many versions, multiple flavors
A wealth of paella versions exist to match the tastes and preferences of the individuals who cook it. The three basic recipes are:
The traditional way of eating paella is to place it in the middle of the table and serve it from the paella pan in which it was cooked.
Paella is one of the most recognized and popular of Spanish dishes on international menus. In Spain, many versions of paella can be found, all of which are authentic, depending on the area, available seasonal ingredients, and family traditions.
Professional chefs seek to recreate traditional paella to please their guests. As long as Bomba rice, Spanish saffron, olive oil and pimentón de la vera comprise the basic ingredients and it's prepared in a paella pan over an open fire, home cooks have a variety of elements they can incorporate to make paella their own.
Manchego Cheese is a gourmet product from Spain known for its sweetness with hazelnut, caramel and meaty accents. Made with 100 percent sheep milk, it has a history and heritage that stretches into antiquity.
Manchego Cheese is made exclusively with milk from Manchego sheep, a breed that was known to prehistoric man. Archeological digs have uncovered remains that clearly demonstrate people in the Bronze Age were making cheese from the Manchego sheep’s early ancestors. True Spanish Manchego Cheese is only made in the country’s La Mancha region.
A semi-firm cheese, the level of moistness and sharpness of flavor will depend upon how long it’s aged. Fresco is “fresh” cheese that’s been aged for 2-4 months, while curado (matured) cheese has been aged for a year. The longer it’s aged, the drier and more crumbly the texture.
Manchego was drained and molded in traditional baskets made with esparto grass at one time that created a unique pattern on the cheese. More modern plastic baskets are now used that imprint the rind with the distinctive crisscross herringbone pattern, making the cheese easy to identify in the marketplace.
Stringent standards are maintained in its creation, from the sheep’s diet to the aging process. It belongs to an elite group of gourmet foods safeguarded under the banner of Protected Designation of Origin. Cheese artisans utilize traditional methods for a unique taste that can’t be simulated anywhere else in the world.
The cheese is traditionally served with foods that include Iberico ham, "marcona" almonds and "membrillo". It pairs well with full-bodied white wines and an extensive range of red vintages. Manchego melts easily and is especially popular when used in egg-based cuisine or served on a cheese plate. This cheese has become a staple topping for gourmet pizza and connoisseurs enjoy it in mac-and-cheese for its rich golden color and scrumptious creaminess.
Manchego Cheese has been welcomed with open arms outside its native Spain. It makes a delicious dip and adds distinction to quesadillas. It’s uniquely suited for melting over vegetables and to spice up soups and salads and it’s being used by professional chefs in haute cuisine around the world and by home cooks who have embraced it for sandwiches, hotdogs, as a topping on flatbread, and multiple types of meat pies and dishes.
Whether it’s used as a topping, a dip or as a tasty snack, Manchego Cheese is a savory sensation that shouldn’t be missed. With its historical beginnings and unique taste, Spanish cheese has taken its place among the premiere gourmet foods around the world.
Traditional Spanish cold soups have their origin in the Andalusian cuisine, especially from Córdoba and Seville, and cover a wide number of variations on the same theme that makes sense in hot climates. A family of dishes rather than a single variety, the term"gazpacho" is commonly used to refer to any vegetable - or fruit - based cold soup.
Healthy ingredients such as vegetables and the extra virgin olive oil - the king of the Mediterranean diet - are staples of this cold soups, although its roots lie in the stale bread, olive oil, garlic and vinegar mix made by the Romans, centuries ago.
Variations of this family of soups are known by several different names depending on the ingredients and the zone of origin:
Gazpacho generally has the base ingredients of water, olive oil, vinegar, bread and any raw vegetables available. It often has added tomato these days, although gazpacho was made long before tomatoes were brought to Spain.
Ajo Blanco refers to the version which came from North Africa. This contains almonds and garlic, which give a pale color, and is often served with fruit such as grapes or melon. It is a popular side dish for baked potatoes in Granada and was originally the staple food of peasants working in the fields. Originating from a time before tomatoes were brought to Spain, the garlic complements the almonds and fruit to produce a nutritious, healthy, hydrating and cheap meal.
Salmorejo contains tomatoes and more bread than generic gazpacho, so it is thicker and creamier as well as a different color. It looks much like a creamy tomato soup, but with a different flavor due to the Spanish ham and egg used for garnish. The healthy antioxidant ingredients in this soup include Spanish extra virgin olive oil and garlic.
Several red gazpacho versions use red fruit as well as tomatoes. White gazpacho similar to ajo blanco also uses dried fruit. Green gazpacho typically has added spices. Every area has its own healthy, tasty variant, many called gazpacho, others not. Arranque roteño from Cadiz is a version which uses less water; this looks more like a cream or dip than a soup. Cojondongo from Extremadura is a thick gazpacho which in addition to the usual base ingredients, also contains chopped onions, tomatoes, and peppers. La Mancha has taken the normally cold gazpacho and made it into a hot meat stew - Gazpacho manchego - that has game meat added to the mix and may also include mushrooms.
From the humble beginnings of a Roman soldier’s marching meal to an entire cuisine, no "gazpacho" is the same. They are, however, all simple to make, tasty, nutritious and healthy. In any case, the secret of an excellent and incomparable dish of cold soup lies in the use of exceptional ingredients that never fail, such as seasonal vegetables, extra virgin olive oil, iberian acorn-fed ham (jamón ibérico de bellota), smoked paprika (Pimentón de la Vera), or sherry vinegar. We guarantee you will triumph with them!
Sherry vinegar is a one-of-kind ingredient and one for which cooks should never accept any substitute. It’s should always be the vinegar of choice, especially for creating Spanish cuisine and Mediterranean dishes. It’s even being used in gourmet burgers.
Imbued with a variety of complex flavors, two aged types are available – Reserva, which is aged a minimum of two years and Gran Reserva that requires 10 years of careful aging to produce its unique essence, flavors, and more than 80 aroma compounds. Authentic Spanish sherry vinegar is protected by the "Denominación de Origen" designation.
Sherry vinegar begins with grapes for which Spain is well-known. It’s aged and matured in oak barrels, a method that makes it a superstar in the vinegar market. Instead of being fortified during the aging process for traditional wine, artisans extend the fermentation process and specific bacteria are added that converts alcohol into acetic acid. As normal water evaporation takes place from each batch, the flavors intensify.
In addition to the aging process, sherry vinegar can also be classified by the grapes used in its creation. Each grape variety has its own attributes and distinctive qualities that affect its taste, color and consistency. Even after it’s opened, sherry vinegar has a significant shelf life when stored in a cool, dry and dark location.
Authentic Spanish sherry vinegar has a vibrant flavor, full of nutty accents that blend well and complement other spices and ingredients that encompass soy sauce, ginger, honey and those with bacon fat. It has a slightly sweet flavor, it’s heart-healthy and also acts as a tenderizer for meat. Sherry vinegar can be used in multiple ways that include:
Sherry vinegar is essential in classic Spanish dishes that include gazpacho and Romesco Sauce. Cooks can use a splash of it in the same way they would a fish sauce or lemon. It’s especially tasty in dishes where nuts and fruits are a primary ingredient and it’s utilized extensively in French cuisine.
No longer used strictly for obtaining a “taste of Spain,” sherry vinegar has found its way into the hearts and kitchens of home cooks and professional chefs to invigorate traditional dishes from lands far from its native home.
Spanish sherry vinegar is elite among vinegars, adding exotic tones that can be used in any cuisine to complement, enhance, and breathe new life into any dish.
Saffron from la Mancha - A Legendary Spice
One of the most highly prized and treasured spices in the world, Saffron from La Mancha is an essential ingredient in Spanish cuisine and the heart-healthy Mediterranean Diet. Highly versatile, the rich yellow-red colored spice is equally at home in rice and vegetarian dishes, soups and stews, with meat and fish and as a tea.
Known as azafrán in Spanish, saffron has a long and legendary history. Originating in Asia Minor, it was introduced to Spain during the Caliphate of Cordoba. Three-fourths of the world’s saffron now comes from the La Mancha region of Spain and it holds the highest recognition of Protected Designation of Origin "La Mancha Saffron"
The spice has been known since ancient times and was such a rare and valuable commodity it was used as a form of currency at one time. It’s a multi-faceted botanical that was used in fragrances, as a deodorizer, and Buddhists used it as a dye for their robes. Ladies of Henry VIII’s court dyed their hair and perfumed their baths with it.
It was hailed as a potent aphrodisiac and saffron pigment has even been found in the paint of cave art. A 14-week war was once waged near Basel, Switzerland, when noblemen stole 800 pounds of the precious spice from merchants.
Science has proven it’s a rich source of minerals the body needs that includes calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, selenium and zinc. Saffron is a potent antioxidant and new research is being conducted into its potential use as an anti-obesity medication.
Today, Saffron from La Mancha can command prices of $500 and more per ounce and is harvested from a very specific type of crocus. The crocus flower contains three thread-like stigmas at its center that yields the flavorful commodity. The stigmas must be harvested by hand in an extremely labor-intensive process and it requires 150-200 flowers to make a single gram of saffron.
The flower only blooms for a limited period and must be harvested at just the right time. Traditional harvesting methods are still used for Saffron from La Mancha and the way the stigmas are dried determines many of its characteristics. The highest quality spice comes in the form of the original threads. When purchased as a ground powder, it often contains other ingredients and isn’t pure saffron.
Saffron has a wealth of health benefits and studies indicate that it may be able to reduce mood swings and blood pressure. Throughout history saffron has been utilized to reduce the effects of a hangover, as an aid for insomnia, and a remedy for digestive issues. It’s said to soothe asthma, strengthen the heart, and help with nerve disorders.
Today, Saffron from La Mancha is still prized by home cooks and professional chefs around the globe for its color, aroma and flavor. An indispensable staple in traditional Spanish foods, it provides multiple health benefits with a unique flavor for a true gourmet experience.
One of the hallmarks of Spanish culture worldwide is ham. But there are many types of ham that differ greatly in taste and quality.
The classification of the ham in Spain is given by the breed of the animal and the feeding. Regarding the breed, the Iberian ham comes from the "Iberian pig", the native breed of the Iberian peninsula (Spain and Portugal). When we speak simply of "ham", we are talking about "white pigs" like Duroc, Landrace and Large White, varieties generally more consumed, mainly for its more economic price but with a lower quality.
100% Iberian ham (100% Jamón Ibérico) means it comes from a pig son of 100% Iberian parents registered. When the animal comes from crosses of the Iberian breed with white pigs, the percentage of Iberian breed must be indicated in the labeling.
In addition to the animal genetics, Iberian hams are classified by its feeding, so inside the category of Iberian pig, we have:
In summary, Iberian hams acorn-fed are the most appreciated and the popular term "Pata Negra" can only appear in the labeling of the highest quality product, that is: "100% Iberian ham acorn-fed" (100% Jamón Ibérico de Bellota)
The essential organoleptic characteristics of a ham are the color, the smell, the flavor and the texture. The color of the Iberian ham is usually an intense red tonality, whereas other hams are more rosaceous color. The feeding with acorns not only determines the final aroma of the ham (the essential oils in the acorns incorporate its aromas to the animal's flesh) but also contributes to the fact that in the tasting it is appreciated a greater juiciness with a unique flavor in the world.
Benefits and properties of 100% acorn-fed Iberian Ham:
All these factors place the acorn-fed Iberian ham in a privileged position in terms of nutrition. So, for example, the nutritional properties of the Iberian ham make it especially recommended for the muscular development,
In conclusion, we can say Iberian ham is an essential product of the Spanish gastronomy for its appreciated flavor, But it is more than a gastronomic product, it is a delicatessen with innumerable virtues and besides being a pleasure for the palate it can act beneficially on our health if it is consumed in moderation within a balanced diet.
Already in 1999, a Greek study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition revealed that olive oil helps to prevent rheumatoid arthritis, and this finding has been corroborated by more recent researches. According to the studies, a high consumption of vegetables and olive oil can prevent this disease.
Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic and inflammatory disorder that affects joints. Approximately 1% of the world's population is affected by this disorder - women 3 times more often than men. The joints become inflamed producing pain, deformity, and difficulty for the movement, although it can also affect other parts of the organism. Its appearance and evolution are influenced by many factors such as genetics, hormones and also food. Although food can not cure arthritis, it can make the disease more bearable or complicated.
Results of the study
The study was developed with 145 patients and the results were the following:
Food in the rheumatic diseases
Rheumatoid arthritis is one of more than 100 existing rheumatic diseases, so the diagnosis must be made or confirmed by a rheumatologist.
However, anyone with articulations discomfort can improve by following a few dietary guidelines that basically consist of overweight consumption of raw vegetables, fruits, salads in conjunction with extra virgin olive oil and whole grains and/or legumes.
Vegetables have a high diuretic action as they are rich in potassium, so they help eliminate fluid retention. They are also depurative, regulate the level of fat in blood and prevents atherosclerosis like the onion. Therefore, they are useful in reducing inflammatory processes.
Foods to Avoid
It is advisable to avoid certain foods such as red meats, sausages, animal fats and hydrogenated fats, sweets, carbonated drinks, and soft drinks, and do not abuse of sugar, coffee, and refined flours.
The Olive Oil
Olive Oil contains oleocantal, a substance that blocks the enzymes involved in inflammation. 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil equals one-tenth of a dose of ibuprofen, according to a study by the Monnell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia. It does not look like much, but every little change in the diet counts!
Is it good to take olive oil on an empty stomach? What is the use of taking olive oil on an empty stomach? We come today to answer these questions.
Our recommendation is that taking Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO) before breakfast is a good option for your health. Basically, when olive oil is taken directly, the nutrients are absorbed far better and all its beneficial properties multiply. So before you prepare a good breakfast, you can help your mechanism work better and start a day with energy and health.
Although most of the users take it directly in a tablespoon, there is another option that is also the same or even more recommendable: mixing olive oil with lemon juice and hot water. But remember the beneficial features we are going to describe are only notable in the Extra-Virgin category.
Benefits of Taking Olive Oil Fastening
1) It stimulates intestinal transit
Surely many of you had already thought it... in case there is any doubt, it is scientifically proven that olive oil favors your intestine.
2) Prevents all types of cancers related to the digestive system
A study conducted by the Universities of Granada and Barcelona has found that a component found in the skin of olives, helps to brake cell proliferation in colon cancer cells.
3) It favors the absorption of nutrients
It is also proven that its intake regulates the transit of food from the stomach to the intestine slowing down this process for the better absorption of all food nutrients.
4) It reduces gastric acidity
Olive oil is composed of a range of substances that neutralize the harmful effect of acidic gastric, the acid that causes the reflux. These substances act as if it were a protective film on the stomach building a wall against the excess of acidity that sometimes takes place in our stomach.
5) It acts on the hepatobiliary system
Extra Virgin Olive Oil is a perfect complement to the cleaning of hepatobiliary system, that is, the gallbladder, bile ducts, liver, and pancreas. It reduces the formation of gallstones and also helps to dissolve and expel them.
6) It helps stop smoking
Taking a tablespoon of Extra Virgin Olive Oil and lots of water is always a good idea when it comes to removing impurities from the body. Olive oil will help more easily to take away excess of nicotine and decrease its effects.
When olive oil is combined with lemon juice and it is ingested in the right way, it acts as a very powerful scrubber and the toxins left in the body are expelled. This mixture has the effect of cleaning the liver by making it perform its functions, in addition to preventing the retention of liquids.
8) Fight the hangover
Taking any food rich in olive oil will help us to form a film inside the stomach to prevent alcohol from sticking to the walls of the stomach and producing that fatal discomfort that many of us know.
9) Anti-inflammatory properties
Research by Philadelphia scientists has shown that Extra Virgin Olive Oil, one of the pillars of the Mediterranean Diet, contains an analgesic component with similar characteristics to ibuprofen, a commonly used analgesic and anti-inflammatory.
These are our reasons for taking it, what are yours?
Twelve years ago, when a group of researchers considered the possibility of measuring scientifically the benefits of olive oil, even the producers of the liquid gold did not pay much attention. So with the financing of a public health institution, these researchers bought the extra virgin oil in the supermarket to supply 200 health centers throughout Spain. With the same public funding, they also paid the salaries of nurses and dietitians who weekly offered training sessions to the volunteer participants who would see the benefits of the Mediterranean diet in their own flesh. That is how PREDIMED study was born in 2003 with more than 7,000 participants. Little by little, even the olive oil manufacturers became aware of the importance of the experiment and began to supply the olive oil necessary to continue collecting data.
So, in 2013, PREDIMED published its firsts results on the benefits of the Mediterranean diet and olive oil for the heart. But, although the study was started to check the cardiovascular benefits of the Mediterranean diet, years later the work continues showing data thanks to the follow-up of the medical records of the participants, this time in relation to the most frequent tumor in women.
The last findings derivated of PREDIMED and published in the JAMA Internal Medicine journal shows that women who consume about 4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil per day reduce their risk of developing breast cancer by up to two-thirds.
For this study, the participant women were divided into three groups whose characteristics were identical except for the diet followed:
Among all the women, the number of breast cancer cases over a five-years follow-up was low, probably because they all had a fairly healthy diet according to what researchers think.
In the case of the olive oil group, there was found a reduction in the risk of having cancer of no less than 68%. With the nuts group, some protection was observed also, but it did not become so significant. As explains the main investigator of the study, in experiments with animals some polyphenols of Extra Virgin Olive Oil have demonstrated their ability to stop the progression of cancer. Therefore, the hypothesis that has more weight is that the consumption of olive oil (always talking about the Extra Virgin category) would be able to stop the evolution of some very incipient malignant cells that some of these women could have.
The study PREDIMED explicitly excluded patients already diagnosed with breast cancer at the time of inclusion, but researchers consider that it would be interesting to evaluate the effect of olive oil in patients with already diagnosed tumors. In their view, and since this food has no health risk, any patient should include it in their diet without hesitation.
In the future, it is very probably that PREDIMED will continue to provide data about the benefits of olive oil in other types of cancer, although to know these data we still have to wait.
Do you know that according to available information, the children of women who consumed Olive Oil in the course of their pregnancy have a better post-natal development than those of mothers who did not? This is manifested in regard to size, weight, behavior and the acquisition of psychomotor reflexes.
Vitamin E, according to studies, is very good for the development of the fetus but also for the newborn, since at the first contact with oxygen he is forced to fight against oxidative stress. Therefore, it is necessary the sufficient reserves of vitamin E, a substance found in abundance in olive oil and maintained in an adequate concentration thanks to the oxidation resistance of this product.
In this way, the quality and quantity of the diet followed during the development of pregnancy play an essential role in the metabolic adaptation that occurs between the mother and the child.
Vitamin E is considered an essential nutritional element. As an antioxidant, it protects from free radicals, the polyunsaturated fatty acids present in membranes and cellular structures. It also has a protective effect on erythrocytes hemolysis (rupture of red blood cells) and acts as a cofactor in many enzymatic systems.
These actions are fundamental importance in all periods of life. In this sense, the consumption of vitamin E during pregnancy is crucial insofar as it causes effects on fetal development, contributing to the maintenance of structural and functional stability of certain tissues. This allows a complete embryonic development and reduces the possibility of fetal malformations. Besides, during the first days of life in the newborn, hyperbilirubinemia is reduced, resulting in decreased hemolysis. That is why it is recommended to consume foods rich in vitamin E such as olive oil and wheat germ during pregnancy.
In addition, the mixture of olive oil with lemon juice used on the skin prevents the formation of stretch marks during pregnancy.
IMPORTANT: This information does not constitute medical advice. If you have any questions, consult your physician.
There are many good reasons to use extra virgin olive oil in the kitchen, where it results in great versatility. Also in the area of gastronomy, the parallelism between olive oil and wine is maintained, as according to gourmets there is a suitable oil for each type of food. The oil should be chosen carefully because, whether used as a dressing or for frying, it decisively influences the flavor of the dish.
The choice of one or another type of oil depends on the taste of each one, but even so, an unwritten rule insists that the softer virgin olive oils are ideal for salads and vegetables, while those with more accused flavor, match better with the fried, grilled and roasted foods.
The truth is that virgin olive oil works perfectly with frying since it does not degrade at high temperatures and it does not lose its qualities. In the frying pan, it spreads its volume by the effect of the heat. When frying, the virgin olive oil does not penetrate the food but gives it its right point, in a way that does not disfigure the flavor of the food.
Taken it in raw, the top quality olive oil gives the best of itself and allows you to taste all the nuances that make up its flavor. This differs clearly from the other vegetable oils, which possess a neutral and standardized taste. It should not be forgotten that the olive oil with the most intense taste risks eating the taste of food, and on the contrary, the oil with smooth flavor may hardly be perceived if it accompanies strong dishes.
Oil, unlike good wines, does not mature or become better with the passage of time. The open bottle should be spent soon because the content maintains its qualities for about a year and thereafter they begin to decay. That is why it is very important when you buy a bottle of extra virgin olive oil, to check the date of packaging. Besides, bottles or cans of virgin olive oil should be stored in a cool, dry and dark place where they are protected from light and heat.
Scientists have isolated about 230 compounds, many of them phenolic, which have very healthy antioxidant properties and from which researchers begin to have the first scientific data on its effect in the prevention of certain types of cancer.
But only virgin olive oil contains these minor compounds since these compounds disappear during the refining process of olive oil and are absolutely absent in all seed oils.
Very Healthy Antioxidant Properties
These compounds include squalene, pigments (chlorophylls, pheophytin), beta-carotene or vitamin A and alpha-tocopherol or vitamin E.
The presence of all these minority compounds is a characteristic and distinctive fact of virgin olive oil, as these compounds disappear during the refinement process in which the impurities of olive oils with defects, are eliminated (SEE MORE: What is virgin olive oil?) These substances are absolutely absent in all seed oils as sunflower.
There is epidemiological evidence suggesting that regular and moderate consumption of virgin olive oil may help to reduce the risk of certain types of tumors, such as breast or colon cancer, but it could also prevent other cancers. The data obtained so far are consistent and very promising, but we still have much to know, above all, the molecular pathways that are activated to produce these healthy effects. It is a line of investigation in full expansion and that augurs very promising results.
The artichoke provides very few calories and has other virtues such as regulating the cholesterol level. They are indicated for people with circulatory or heart problems. In addition, the artichoke is one of the richest vegetables in our orchards, providing us with a feeling of fullness after the meal, not forgetting the digestive benefits that give us this fiber, regulating intestinal transit.
Prep Time: 10 min; Cook Time: 20 min; Total Time: 30 min
Enjoying good health is basically a matter of genes. However, diet can help us maintain and improve it. Today, the Mediterranean diet has been imposed as a dietary pattern for its positive effects on health in general and specifically for its role in the prevention of cardiovascular diseases, cancer, and diabetes.
In the 1960s, the population living in Crete, southern Greece and southern Italy had a life expectancy among the highest in the world, despite the limitations of medical services. Myocardial infarction is almost unknown and cancer hardly exists. This reality that has been known all over the world thanks to the Study of the Seven Countries, perhaps the main study for research on the relationship between Mediterranean Diet and Heart Disease, showed that diet, lifestyle, and environment (climate and environmental factors) are of great importance in health.
At the root of this study, the Mediterranean diet has been imposed as a dietary pattern. But we must not forget that the people of Crete or Italy had a lifestyle that was also responsible for providing their daily ration of health for body and mind. Going back to the sixties, (date in which this study was done), with its world of values and needs is impossible. But there is no doubt that our way of life and the way to deal with what happens to us affects our body.
The diet that is useful for preventing cardiovascular disease is useful for protecting health in general
Dried fruits in moderation, virgin olive oil for cooking and dressing, bluefish, half a glass of red wine, fruits, vegetables, cereals and legumes What do these foods have in common? They are beneficial for cardiovascular health, in general, by acting on cholesterol, reducing LDL (bad cholesterol) and raising HDL (good cholesterol), which helps keep arteries in good condition.
Oil, nuts or blue fish contain unsaturated fats (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated), which are healthy fats.
Olive oil is rich in monounsaturated fats, just like nuts, with clear benefits for cholesterol; bluefish is rich in omega-3 polyunsaturated, whose fat reduces the tendency of blood to form clots, help control blood pressure and prevent arrhythmias.
With regard to red wine, there is no doubt that a small amount - a glass a day - at meals is healthy for the heart and arteries and reduces the risk of heart attacks, strokes, and peripheral vascular disease.
Vegetables, fruits, legumes, and cancer
Diets rich in cereals, fruits, vegetables, and legumes reduce the risk of cancer. On this point, there is a general consensus among the scientific community, even though all the specific plant molecules that protect against cancers are not currently identified. For this reason, five daily rations of different colors are recommended. The variation and not always take the same fruit guarantees a greater range of minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants.
One component that is identified is folic acid, having found that people who do not have enough folic acid are at increased risk of breast, colon and rectal cancer, especially if you drink too much.
Saturated fats and cancer
There is also no doubt about the effect of some saturated fats present in red meats such as veal and processed meats such as frankfurts and ham because they are the ones that have a clearer relationship with some cancers, such as Of colon. It is not necessary to eliminate these meats from the diet because they provide proteins, iron, and other important nutrients, but it is better not to take them daily.
If saturated fats can have an impact on breast cancer, research has shown that virgin olive oil and specifically one of its components, oleic acid, contributes to its prevention. There is a study led by scientist Javier Menendez, molecular biologist at the Northwestern Health Research Institute in Chicago, who has confirmed that oleic acid intake significantly reduces one of the oncogenes associated with more aggressive tumors.
Risk of diabetes
Foods associated with the Mediterranean diet reduce cholesterol levels, blood pressure and thus the risk of diabetes.
The consumption of minimally processed cereals, fruits, vegetables, and vegetables with a high fiber content, as well as the use of monounsaturated fats (olive oil), are also useful for improving the blood glucose level and the lipid profile of diabetics.
Diet and physical activity
As important as a healthy eating style is to maintain a physical activity. It does not have to be very intense, but often enough, just walk 30 minutes at a good pace. Not only is weight reduced. It is shown that physical exercise reduces bad cholesterol, (LDL) and increases good (HDL). In addition, it controls the level of triglycerides in the blood that are harmful. It promotes insulin activity and reduces the risk of diabetes, as well as blood pressure.
Aging is a process that develops throughout life and whose main manifestations are favored by the presence of an oxidative phenomenon.
Unlike other oils such as corn, almond or soy, olive oil prevents aging because of its richness in monounsaturated fat, which when it's incorporated into the body performs more beneficial effects than other fats, in terms of cholesterol, blood pressure and the prevention of oxidation.
On the other hand, it is a specific characteristic of virgin and extra virgin oils that they are rich in antioxidants and micronutrients, while the rest of the oils have to be refined for consumption, which means that they lose these components.
Both the effect of fat (reducing risk factors and oxidation), and its micronutrients, are favorable to health by reducing the mechanisms that favor the development of chronic diseases.
As part of the Mediterranean diet, virgin olive oil improves the quality of life as it promotes longevity. Without a doubt, the Mediterranean diet, which includes olive oil as a fundamental fat, is one of the best models. The higher quality of life in old age would be attributed to the fact that said diet reduces chronic diseases, such as heart disease, cancer, and neurodegenerative diseases.
The smoked paprika from "La Vera" (known as Pimentón de la Vera) is a condiment very used to highlight the flavor of many foods in the Spanish cuisine. But the smoked paprika has also interesting properties that are beneficial to the health.
The process of specific elaboration of this paprika, with a tradition drying system, is the one that contributes to its curative qualities, as it confers antioxidant properties.
The health benefits of paprika of La Vera, are:
This type of paprika is even healthier than others so it is very advisable to use it regularly in meals. Just consuming 2 or 3 teaspoons per week at meals is enough to take care of our health, that's why some call it "Red Gold" because of the medicinal qualities that it owns.
This seasoning has a very special taste, smoky and intense in its 3 varieties: sweet, hot and bittersweet, so it is very easy to use in different dishes.
For all that, we can say it is really worth to include in our diet the Spanish paprika from La Vera as it can help us strengthen the defenses of the body and in this way prevent several diseases.
Both are a natural product and authentic juice of olives. The difference is in the degree of acidity and on the score obtained in the sensory analysis.
An extra virgin olive oil has an irreproachable taste and odor or said otherwise zero defects. If it is detected some type of aroma or flavor that belongs to the category of defects (rancid, humidity ...) it should be marketed under the label of "virgin". It is very difficult for a consumer not trained in the sensory analysis to be able to distinguish this barely perceptible defects, but there is a very strict methodology for the sensory evaluation of virgin olive oils by professional tasting panels.
With respect to the degree of acidity, the IOC (International Olive Council) stipulates that the extra virgin can not exceed 1º, while the virgin's limit is 2º. However, in EU regulation it is indicated that the extra virgin olive oil has 0,8 ° maximum acidity.
In the market what we will find more usually extra virgin oils with a degree of acidity between 0.3 and 0.8 º and virgin oils that do not exceed 1º. Since the virgin oil sold does not exceed 1, which is the limit set for the extra virgin, the real difference between one and the other lies in the sensory analysis.
The acidity has nothing to do with the taste more or less intense, It is a chemical parameter that determines the amount of free fatty acids expressed in oleic acid. It is related to the elaboration process. A high acidity indicates anomalies in the state of the fruits, in the treatment and/or the conservation. It is also important to know that a very low acidity, for example, 0.1 º, is not necessarily synonymous with exceptional oil. In fact, for more than two years, the UE regulations prohibited the mention of the degree of acid in the label of an extra virgin oil unless it was accompanied by other chemical parameters such as peroxides.
In short, all the oils that have been obtained exclusively by mechanical methods (pressure or centrifugation) and without the intervention of any chemical process, are called virgins. But a small loss of quality in the olive or in any of the stages of the process is enough to transform oil category to virgin instead of extra virgin.