My husband and I recently returned from 3 weeks in Israel, including one day in Jordan visiting the awe-inspiring ruins in Petra (our Jordanian tour guide was so proud of his country that he also took us on an unexpected tour of Aqaba, the Jordanian city across the Red Sea from Eilat, Israel).  The trip exceeded our expectations in so many ways.

Being in the Middle East is both exciting and intense.  There’s so much history, and there’s so much unrest.  We were fortunate to have all the history and none of the unrest (lucky for us, we missed Syria’s shelling of the Golan Heights by one day!).

The food is delicious, as Israelis eat a Mediterranean diet with lots of olive oil, fresh tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers, wonderful varieties of olives, and hummus that is plentiful and to-die-for.  The freshly-baked breads are wonderful, too, from what I heard (I don’t do gluten).  In the outdoor market in Tel Aviv you can find huge pomegranates, lots of citrus and melon, tons of vegetables, a large variety of olives, fish, soft and hard cheeses, etc.  Israelis also enjoy dates, grapes, meats and poultry, and falafel.  Of course, everyone loves sweet treats, so you’ll also find baklava, as well as a large variety of candies and halvah (a sweet confection eaten throughout the Middle East, typically made from sesame seed paste (aka tahini) and honey or sugar).

                     

Our Israeli tour guide told us that the country prides itself on its ‘longevity’ standing in the world, so I decided to look that up.  Turns out that, at least according to some sources (National Geographic being one of them), Israel stands out in the world as having a long-living and fairly healthy population. Israel ranked 8th in the world (as of 2015) at a combined life expectancy of 82.5 years (Japan is # 1 at 83.7).  By comparison, the United States ranked 31st at a combined life expectancy of 79.3 years.  This data is according to the WHO (World Health Organization).  There is other data showing that Israeli’s enjoy a longer life than Americans do.

Even though several of Israel’s enemies (Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank, Syria, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia) sit on its borders, Israelis enhance their lifestyle with close family and community relationships; living outdoors, walking, dancing, and enjoying sunshine; and they eat a healthy, mostly Mediterranean, diet.

Switching to the magic of a Mediterranean diet of fresh, unprocessed, foods, high in plants, some good fats, and low in animals (beef, lamb, poultry) is a great first step toward a healthier, slimmer, long-living you!

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   ISRAELI CHOPPED SALAD

Its easy to make, and really delicious!

8+ servings.  Great for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or snack!

Ingredients

  • 1 lb cucumbers (preferably Persian), diced
  • 1 lb fresh tomatoes, diced, seeds and juice removed
  • ½ cup minced fresh parsley
  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 tbsp fresh-squeezed lemon juice
  • ½ tsp Himalayan pink salt
  • Optional:  a pinch of black pepper to taste; ½ red onion, chopped fine; 4-5 oz. crumbled feta cheese; ½ each of red and yellow peppers; ½ tsp thyme and oregano; 5-6 fresh mint leaves, minced

Directions

  1. Place all ingredients in a large mixing bowl.
  2. Mix to coat vegetables with parsley, oil, lemon juice, and seasonings.
  3. Served fresh or chilled.