David Worboys – Southern nutrition

Whether we choose a healthy or a less healthy diet, Andalucia offers the best quality

We all understand what is meant by the Mediterranean Diet. However, in Andalucia it extends a little further to include the Atlantic coastline of Cadiz and Huelva. Let’s call it the Andalucian Diet.

Its health benefits are widely known. Olive oil, garlic, oranges, avocados, herbs and spices consumed regularly from an early age – with other fruit and vegetables – increase enormously the prospects of a healthy life. The sub-tropical climate provides vitamin D from the sunshine, an outdoor lifestyle and hence greater opportunities for regular swimming, walking, cycling and other outdoor exercise.

There is an abundance of local independent grocers, greengrocers, bakers, butchers, fishmongers and herbalists, all selling fresh local produce. We can buy eggs straight from the farm and there are fruit trees, nuts and berries, herbs and spices sprouting everywhere. The  sea yields a variety of fish and seafood, the best tuna being from around Tarifa.

Consequently, it is not necessary to import much in the way of fruit and vegetables. If we follow the seasons, we can select our local fresh produce. Tomatoes grow all year. Between November and May, we have oranges, lemons, avocados, strawberries, persimmon and grapefruit. From  May to November, it’s cherries, figs, melons and peaches. February is for almonds, April for nisperos, September for mangoes and October for chirimoya and pomegranates. All on our doorstep at various times of the year.

Andalucia produces sherry (from Jerez and Sanlucar); and good red and white wines, although the best are from further north (La Rioja, Ribeira del Duero, Rueda, Penedes, and Navarro). We also have to go further afield (to Asturias and La Rioja) for apples and pears, and to Valencia for rice. We need to import dates from Tunisia, coconuts from Vietnam, papaya from Brazil and (out of season) avocados from Peru.

There are fine local beers such as Alhambra from Granada and Victoria from Malaga. And Jaen Province produces about 20% of worldwide sales of extra virgin olive oil and 60% of the entire consumption in Spain. The province seems to be one massive olive grove.

The best mushrooms, from Cadiz Province, are ready in Autumn. There are about 175 edible species. They have many nutritional benefits and can be a healthy substitute for meat.  Among the staple accompaniments for a hot meal may be couscous, pasta, polenta, potatoes or rice.

Spanish cuisine relies more on the quality of natural ingredients rather than sauces. This is one reason why there are now more starred restaurants and more great chefs here than in France and Italy. For some time, San Sebastian has been recognised as Europe’s gastronomical capital, successor to Lyon and Bologna, but the revolution in Spanish cuisine had spread to throughout the country, nowhere more than in Andalucia – in the fish and seafood restaurants of Cadiz, Sanlucar and Jerez. This area also has excellent beef, pork and vegetarian restaurants.

Live well to eat well; eat well to live well. Either is a good choice.

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Written by

David Worboys

Offering a unique insight into everything from politics to food to sport, David is one of the Euro Weekly News´ most popular columnists.