The Mediterranean Diet is golden child of the evidence-based nutrition world, with hundreds of studies citing its effective for weight loss, diabetes, heart disease, hypertension (high blood pressure) and recommended for general health, longevity, and wellness. During my dietetics degree training, I remember how often we discussed it in senior clinical nutrition as the dietary treatment for many chronic diseases. And the science checks out. When it’s recommended and adopted effectively, people do see their health issues improve.
Why is the Mediterranean Diet most recommended?
In the1950s there was an interest in this diet because the medical community noticed there was less incidence of heart disease amongst those who lived in Mediterranean countries as compared to those living in the US. Several studies since then have been done to confirm the health benefits of this diet, especially in prevention of heart disease and stroke. Mayo Clinic has a basic breakdown of the diet here. Once the scientific literature proved its effectiveness, it was recommended in many mainstream western media outlets, including Live Strong, Everyday Health, POPSUGAR Fitness and more.
What foods are eaten on the Mediterranean Diet?
Foods often eaten in Greece and Italy, foods from the other countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea. They include plant-based foods, such as whole grains, vegetables, legumes, fruits, nuts, seeds, herbs and spices, are the foundation of the diet. Olive oil is the main source of added fat. Fish, seafood, dairy and poultry are included in moderation. Red meat and sweets are eaten only occasionally. Sounds great right? But what if these are not the foods you are used to eating?
Decolonizing the Mediterranean Diet
I once tried giving my Chinese Mom olives, and you should have seen her face. I knew she wouldn’t like it – too salty and squishy, but still, she did not complain – as she never really does. My issue is, the Mediterranean Diet is its biased towards the foods from Eurocentric countries like Greece and Italy. No shade to those food cultures as they are wonderful, delicious and healthful, but something didn’t seem right to me. Also, how often do we hear about the health benefits of the cuisines of countries on the North African border of the Mediterranean Sea? Almost never. Those countries are often ignored, and the research only focuses on what was conducted in white countries.
Scientific research tends to focus mostly on white, Eurocentric bodies and people, therefore, giving us evidence that has a colonialist influence. You can read more about that here, and check out this article on Science and Colonialism in Smithsonian Magazine.
So is the Mediterranean Diet good for Asians?
As a registered dietitian, I’ve seen many western trained, Chinese doctors recommend the Mediterranean Diet based on evidence. However, note that physicians are not nutrition experts. Their role is to provide medical care and treatment to patients.
As dietetics training is western science, I had to unlearn lots of my colonialist thinking about nutrition and diets. I used to also think the Mediterranean Diet was superior, and I was very much the nutrition police. Years ago, I would say brown rice was better than white rice and I would ignore the cultural foods of my people. It’s been a while, lots of unlearning, but I have changed how I view things drastically. I’ve decolonized the science to serve my community better, and honestly… it’s the best thing I’ve never done in my career as a dietitian content creator. Truth is, I was tired of trying to make nutrition content for the mainstream (white) crowd, especially when majority of the content out there was made for that audience anyway.
Asians in North America especially the Chinese have always been told our cuisine is weird or gross. It’s one of the oldest stereotypes of our cuisine. As a CBC, I had to unlearn my own internalized racism too, about both my food and culture. All cuisines have their healthier dishes and their less healthy ones. Asian food has lots of nutritional benefits, including tofu, ginger, ginseng, herbs, teas, turmeric, yams, beans and pulses, and of course – all the veggies and fruits!
I’ve come a long way in putting other Eurocentric cuisines above my own culture’s food as tasty and nutritious, and my goal is to show you how to do that. It means flattening the healthy food hierarchy to make it more inclusive and diverse. Most people are comfortable eating what they are familiar with. If you are a person of colour (POC), you probably don’t see your food culture recommended on the MyPlate or Canada Food Guide. If the foods that you grew up with are white rice and steamed fish, then it is. I want to show you how to make healthy tweaks to help you reach your health goals.
So this is what this brand is all about. Healthy eating for Asians, and it includes your cultural foods. Stick along with me for the ride!
Watch my YouTube video on the topic. And don’t forget to like, subscribe and share!
More to come,