Eating the MediterrAsian way has immeasurably improved our health and wellbeing, and it’s also introduced us to a world of wonderful new tastes. That’s why, for over a decade, we’ve been saying to forget restrictive diets and look to Mediterranean and Asian populations (who are the healthiest, leanest and longest living peoples on earth) for dietary and lifestyle inspiration.
Unfortunately, sensible messages about nutrition rarely get much publicity. But what the media — including social media — keeps lapping up is fad diets. And it seems that the more controversy a fad diet can stir up, the more popular it becomes. That controversy might come from banning foods that were “once thought to be healthy” or by turning foods that were “once thought to be unhealthy” into health foods. The net result is that we’re more confused than ever about what constitutes a healthy diet.
Thankfully, the tide is slowly starting to turn. More and more voices of authority are speaking up for common sense. And it’s not just health experts who are speaking up about the benefits of combining traditional Mediterranean and Asian eating practices — a growing number of world-renowned chefs are joining them.
Let’s start by looking at some of the scientists, doctors and dietitians who are embracing a MediterrAsian way of eating.
Dr. Gerald Rimbach, Professor of Food Science at the University of Kiel, Germany, has published a number of studies looking at the protective effects of various foods that are staples in Mediterranean and Asian cultures—such as olive oil, fish, green tea and turmeric. In 2013 he led a research team that looked at the benefits of combining traditional Mediterranean and Asian diets. This groundbreaking research found that a MediterAsian diet helps activate a gene in the body called sirtuin 1 (SIRT1), which is known as the ‘longevity gene’ because it extends cellular life and helps in the repair of DNA. The findings were published in the journal Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity. “We suggest that a so-called MediterrAsian diet combining sirtuin-activating foods of the Asian as well as Mediterranean diet may be a promising dietary strategy in preventing chronic diseases, thereby ensuring health and healthy aging,” they wrote.
Professor Eugenio Iorio, Founder and Director of the International Observatory of Oxidative Stress (a non-profit scientific network of more than 3,000 researchers from 35 Countries), is a strong advocate of the MediterrAsian diet. He has held popular lectures about this way of eating, and says that “the ideal paradigm for our health would be a MediterrAsian diet.”
Dr. David Colquhoun from the University of Queensland School of Medicine wrote about the benefits of a MediterrAsian way of eating in the Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition, where he said that a MediterrAsian diet “may be the optimal diet.”
Dr. Mariangela Rondanelli and a team of scientists from the University of Pavia, Italy, conducted a systematic review this year looking at the benefits of combining Mediterranean and Asian foods to improve cholesterol levels. They found that a MediterrAsian diet boosted “good” HDL cholesterol, and reduced heart disease risk. The review titled “MediterrAsian diet products that could raise HDL cholesterol: a Systematic Review” will be published in the journal BioMed Research International later this year.
Dr. Nadia Anna Fiorentino from San Raffaele University Hospital in Milan is a proponent of combining traditional Mediterranean and Asian eating practices: “The abundance of fruits, vegetables, olive oil, red wine, soy, green tea, and fish provides an excellent supply of bioactive molecules. Such molecules, working in a synergistic manner, are able to counteract the effect of free radicals and thus are able to prevent the development of chronic degenerative diseases such as cardiovascular diseases, atherosclerosis, type 2 diabetes and cancer,” she says.
Dietitian Caroline Fernandes is convinced that a MediterrAsian diet is the best diet for health and longevity. She now recommends her patients follow a MediterrAsian way of eating, and the outcome has been highly positive: “In practice, we observed that patients do not feel they are on a diet, in the restrictive sense of the word, but a transition to a new lifestyle that involves flavors, foods and seasonings with a harmonious blend.”
Virginia Messina is a registered dietitian and author of more than ten books on vegetarian and vegan cooking. She is also an advocate of a MediterrAsian approach to eating, and devotes a section of one of her latest books to a meatless version of a MediterrAsian diet. She also created this visual guide showing how easy it is to enjoy a MediterrAsian diet, even if you don’t eat animal products.
Dr. Antigone Kouris from La Trobe University, Melbourne, has published almost 40 scientific papers, and has co-authored 5 university text books. She is also a vocal proponent of a MediterrAsian diet. Her MediterrAsian cookbook You are what you cook was published in 2012, and recently she has developed a range of MediterrAsian cookies using Mediterranean and Asian inspired ingredients which contain 50 percent less sugar than normal cookies.
Renowned chefs also embracing a MediterrAsian way of eating
As I mentioned earlier, a MediterrAsian way of eating doesn’t just benefit your health, it very much benefits your taste buds! So it’s not surprising that a growing number of renowned chefs are also enthusiastically embracing the concept of MediterrAsian eating:
Executive chef Tiffany Poe—who collaborated with Food Network star, The Pioneer Woman, on three of her New York Times number one bestselling cookbooks—is helping blaze the trail for MediterrAsian cooking. After reading our book, The MediterrAsian Way, she was so inspired that she teamed up with fellow chef, Trey Wilson, to start a MediterrAsian food truck in 2013. She was recently appointed as the Clinical Professor of Food Studies at Oklahoma State University, where she continues to passionately spread the word about the health and gastronomic benefits of a MediterrAsian way of eating.
World champion sushi master Pepi Anevski, whose parents are from the Mediterranean region, is a big fan of combining Mediterranean and Asian flavors. Earlier this year he developed a range of MediterrAsian sushi for the Ocean Basket chain of seafood restaurants (which serve over a million customers a month worldwide) and they have been a smash hit.
American chef, Jesse Koide, thinks that fusing together Mediterranean and Asian cuisines is a perfect match. His MediterrAsian restaurant, Pink Zebra, was named as one of the top 25 restaurants in the U.S. by GQ magazine in 2015.
Reif Othman, former regional executive chef of Zuma restaurants, has combined his love of Japanese food with his passion for Mediterranean ingredients at the recently opened MediterrAsian restaurant, Play, in Dubai. It’s quickly become one of the most popular restaurants in Dubai, and recently won the title of “Dubai’s best new fine dining restaurant” at the Time Out Dubai Restaurant Awards.
Just the beginning
We’re confident this growing chorus of voices is just going to get louder and louder in the future. And why wouldn’t it? Eating great food that’s great for you is a concept I think we can all embrace! And of course we’ll be doing out utmost to continue spreading the word about a MediterrAsian way of living. That includes making an announcement soon about a big MediterrAsian project we’ve been busily working on for the last three years. So watch this space…