Key ingredients in a Middle-Eastern diet to apply in your life this winter

Taking care of ourselves during the wintertime has become exceedingly important, as the risk of catching a list of viruses and the flu tend to be a lot higher around this season.

The goal is to consume foods that increase your energy, regulate your body heat and protect your immune system. 

As your next step, discover the health benefits of Middle Eastern cuisine. Many sources online find resemblances of traditional Middle Eastern food with the Mediterranean diet; in fact, it’s ranked as second-best on the health scale, health experts say. 

From the light oil and seasoning in every dish and salad to creamy and flavourful dips like hummus, garlic and tahini, makes an overall enriching experience.

Here are some basic strengthening foods to consider integrating into your next homemade meal, snack or dessert:

*Disclaimer: the following food has its benefits if eaten in moderation. Each person has their own sense of what works for their body and what doesn’t. These ingredients may work differently for one person’s health than the other, so be cautious of any allergic reaction and monitor for any good or bad impacts. *

1. Garlic

Do you ever find yourself drawn towards the taste and aroma of garlic? It’s one of those ingredients that is used in versatile ways to elevate the taste and nourishment within your main course.

An article by Healthline includes a list of 11 well-researched benefits of garlic and the source recommends you have four cloves of garlic per day, because of the many nutrients offered. 

“Another study found that a high dose of aged garlic extract (2.56 grams per day) reduced the number of days sick with cold or flu by 61 percent,” according to the article.

To sum up their medicinal properties, the cloves work like an antioxidant, reduce stress, regulate blood pressure, improve cholesterol and supplements you with essential vitamins, preventing diseases in the long run. Healthline also claims that garlic has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory effects on your skin, which can prevent skin issues like aging and acne.   

Middle Eastern style recipe

Lebanese garlic sauce (Toum) 

If you’re a sauce lover, this is one you’ll crave for. It’s a gradual emulsion of garlic, (neutral) oil, lemon juice, salt and egg whites (optional.) A step-by-step recipe can be found here

Pair it with

  • Turmeric rice. Turmeric as a spice itself is known for its anti-inflammatory quality, and the flavour isn’t too overpowering either, which makes it more worth trying a healthier version of rice.
  • Shawarma. Garlic sauce is a tantalizing addition mixed with other sauces and salads contained in the pita.
  • Universally friendly with other foods like burgers, wraps, fries and grilled meat such as lamb, chicken and beef.

2. Fruits and nuts

Dried fruits and nuts

Dried fruits and nuts are replacements for snacks and desserts which contain fibre, potassium and mineral antioxidants. Dried fruits help with digestion while nuts help with cholesterol and reduce the risk of diabetes. 

Nuts like pistachios are savoured in many different sweet dishes like the popular dessert called Baklava. The baked good includes phyllo sheets, pistachios, butter or ghee and sugar syrup. 

Dates

There are many types of dates found in Middle Eastern countries, to name some of them there’s Medjool, Barhi and Deglet Noor. Dates grow from palm trees and most look brown and wrinkled with a glossy exterior. 

They’re treated to enjoy in the winter because of their ability to produce heat in your body, but eating too many can cause bumps or other reactions. They’re yummy on their own, covered in dark chocolate or stuffed with almonds. 

Being higher in sugar content tends to work well as an alternative for sugar. Dates are considered holy fruits and are sacred for Muslims, and are eaten at the time of breaking fasts during the month of Ramadhan. 

Olives

Olives are a staple shared in the Middle East and in the Mediterranean. You can find different coloured marinated or pickled olives in your local ethnic grocery store, some on the expensive side.

Olive oil is especially a prize possession. Extra virgin olive oil is drizzled on almost every possible food there is, from meats and veggies to bread and dips. It’s also a healthy monounsaturated fat that helps lower bad cholesterol.

3. Arabic coffee 

Nothing beats a piping hot drink on a chilly winter afternoon. Whether you’re going out into the cold or staying locked inside, it’s a natural feeling to desire a warm beverage at irregular hours of the day, in a way it helps make the winter blues go away. 

Arabic Qahwa (coffee) was cultivated in Yemen and it’s referred to as a “health energy drink” in an article by Smart Line. The article discusses nine points on how Qahwa has a positive effect on one’s well-being.

Qahwa is somewhat bitter, in the form of a brown or light yellow colour, depending on how strong it is. Sometimes spices like cardamom, cloves, saffron or ginger are put in for a spicy or herbal result. It substitutes other caffeinated drinks, without adding any milk and instead of sugar, Arabs prefer to eat dates, chocolate or any biscuits for some sweetness. To stay on the safer side, it was advised to limit oneself to about two or three cups a day.

Mississauga, a center for multiculturalism, continues to welcome countless Middle Eastern restaurants, some old and some new. What better way to connect with another culture than through food, after all, there are unlimited options to choose from. 

This post is also available in: Tiếng Việt

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