March 23, 2012
While most things in the Middle East could be unfriendly to Poz persons, one thing keeps proving the opposite: Middle Eastern cuisine. A diet that is high in good fats, protein, vegetables and good carbs; how can you go wrong with that?
For HIV-positive persons, nutrition is the second factor in importance after medication to help you live a good quality life. Good nutrition is crucial in helping you overcome the punch which the virus gives to your immune system. While any healthy choice could be good, Middle Eastern food can be both good and delicious!
Remember the main philosophy of food in the Middle East is bringing people together and loving the moment. It¡¦s all about enjoying it and not only eating it. But the good thing about this joy is that it¡¦s a healthy joy. Sadly enough, there is a lot of confusion in the U.S. between South Asian and Middle Eastern cuisine. While the first is rich with spices, Middle Eastern food uses fewer spices and more ingredients and meats.
Of course, some people cannot stand Middle Eastern food, and some fall in love with it; in the end, it is a personal choice. I just think it may be nice at least if you try it even once. You can easily go to a Middle Eastern restaurant or order a cookbook and follow the instructions.
Well, let us try here to start with the essentials: Middle Eastern food is rich in vegetables, whole grains, nuts, beans and seeds. When it comes to meat products, it uses lamb meat and poultry. Pork is strictly avoided in Middle Eastern cuisine for religious reasons; this helps you avoid the crazy levels of cholesterol found in pork products.
Nevertheless, Middle Eastern food is rich with good fats and oils. The main oil used in Middle Eastern cuisine is olive oil. Olive oil is anti-inflammatory and fights disease at the cellular level. Middle Easterners believe that the olive tree is a blessed tree, along with date, palm and fig, and exists in paradise. They use olive oil generously on food without necessarily cooking it; in fact, most dishes in the Middle East are not fried but baked. So after you prepare any dish, try to add two or three spoons of Middle Eastern olive oil made from natural organic olive.
Another source of good oils in Middle Eastern cuisine is nuts. They add them over rice or use them in breakfasts, desserts or as snacks; it should be interesting to know that dried seeds are the popcorn of Middle Easterners when watching movies. These seeds provide you with a good source of healthy oils. Many studies have confirmed that a diet that is high in fat but low in saturated fat ultimately reduces the risks of heart disease, stroke and cancer.
The most famous Middle Eastern sauce in the U.S. is Tahini. This is basically sesame paste, which has great benefits on the body metabolism of fatty acids; it also impairs cholesterol. Tahini is very rich in minerals and other vitamins. It ranks among top ten foods rich in copper.
There are two types of Middle Eastern salads: Salatat and Mezze. The first is mainly green salads such as Tabbouleh, Arugula Salad, or Fattoush. Salatat are made from green leaves with tomato, onion, cucumber and dressings. A sour taste adds to the zest of Middle Eastern life; lemon or sumac is often used to add the sour taste to Salatat.
Now let us go to the second type of Middle Eastern salads: the Mezze. The main Mezzes are Hummus, Baba ganouch or Labneh. Labneh remains the least known in the west, even though it is one of my favorites. You can make it at home or buy it ready from Middle Eastern groceries. You can eat it anytime with pita bread or use it as a healthy spread: Drown it in olive oil, sprinkle with pulverized spearmint, surround it with black olives, finally sprinkle some dried thyme and you will start to smell the Middle East. Yogurt is used in many Middle Eastern products; it¡¦s a great source for probiotic bacteria, which more research is proving how friendly it is to Poz folks. You can add more benefits by adding garlic to the yogurt or make a yogurt drink when you mix it with water.
Now we reach my point of weakness: Desserts! They are originally rich with honey, milk and nuts. In the west, Baklava and Halvah are the most known desserts from the Middle East. These two dangerous Middle Eastern desserts should be put on the FBI's list of most wanted Middle Easterners! º They can cause you a lot of damage if you don¡¦t watch out for them. Still, could be a very healthy choice if consumed moderately. Approach them with care, just as you approach Middle Eastern women or men. º Halvah includes very healthy ingredients and it was a recipe in Babylon for women to keep their beauty.
Muslims believe that honey is a blessed food because it comes from nature in such a creative way. It was mentioned in the Quran as a healing food; this is why honey was used in the Middle East as a tea sweetener. Unfortunately I am witnessing this tradition of using honey disappearing even from Middle Eastern tea cups.
Tea is consumed in large amounts at all times and in all types, from mint tea to black tea, passing through a variety of Zhourat teas [roses tea]. I recommend that you include tea ceremonies in your daily activities. Start offering your friends tea instead of coffee or alcohol; it is a healthier choice and the whole pots, tray and teacups could be an entertaining experience to you and to them.
Avoiding alcohol and wine is a must in Middle Eastern cuisine for religious purposes. This provides space for other healthy choices such as vinegar and pomegranate juice to rain over the dishes to give them taste.
Most cities in the U.S. have Middle Eastern groceries where you can have an interesting experience and get your chance of buying some healthy ingredients to celebrate U.S. diversity -- before a right wing candidate wins the presidential elections and shuts down all ethnic stores and asks women to stay home to cook soup only. :)
Enjoy and Sahtayn [double health] which is the Arabic bon appétit.