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Are Spanish eating habits healthy?

Learn how Spain eats on your next trip to Barcelona

Spain, as any other country in the world, has its own unique eating habits. From the cooking techniques to the recipes and ingredients, the Spanish cuisine has its own personality. After all, Spain is a Mediterranean country with its own weather conditions. The average temperature is above 18ºC with rainy winters and dry summers. Spanish regions like Catalonia, the Balearic Islands and a good part of the Valencian Community, have this climate. There are other countries that share this climate, like some Italian regions, Greece or Malta. But Spain is probably the epitome of the Mediterranean country and its famous diet

Spain is a country with a very diverse demography. We can see this diversity also in the climate, habits and cultures of all the different regions, which is what makes Spanish gastronomy so diverse: Meat stews, fresh salads, organic vegetables, typical paellas, all kinds of fish and seafood, etc. There is a wide range of ingredients and cooking methods in each region. After all, the cuisine has been influenced both by the different empires that colonized Spain through the centuries and the countries that were colonized by the Spanish Empire, especially South América.

In addition to this, processes like globalization have affected the eating habits of the Spanish people, especially since the 90´s, when corporations and fast food chains started its expansion. Some of the products of these corporations aren´t exactly healthy since most of them are filled with artificial colorings and preservatives. Nowadays eating healthy organic food is a global trend but in some cases, our eating habits don´t help. That’s the reason we were wondering: Are Spanish eating habits inherently healthy?

Let´s confront some pro and con arguments to try to reach a conclusion.

Spanish eating habits ARE healthy

· The Mediterranean diet is considered one of the healthiest in the world

This diet consists mostly of fruit, vegetables, whole grains, pasta, rice and olive oil, with a moderate amount of cheese, wine, yogurt, nuts, fish, eggs, poultry and pulses, and meat thrown in. The benefits attributed to it are related to improvements in cholesterol levels, in the antioxidant system, on blood pressure, immune system, blood coagulation and even liver system. The Mediterranean diet also acts against obesity, reduces diabetes, acts against certain cardiovascular diseases, is good for memory and reduces the risk of bone fractures. And above all: It´s delicious!

· In Spain, fortunately, natural products are still valued

We are not talking about organic products, farm-to-table or those who are sold with that label, but the real products made in the small towns of the countryside. In Spain, a lot of people has family members who live in small towns or cities, and occasionally bring them typical products as gifts. From sausages, cheeses or pickles to Polvorones, Mantecados or Roscones de Reyes (typical Christmas sweets). Whether for religious ceremonies, secular celebrations or town festivals, there is a typical food for every occasion. And it’s a known fact that these typical home made products are always so much better than the industrial ones.

· Ferran Adriá, Juan Mari Arzak and Martín Berasategui are well-known names in the world of gourmet cuisine

The three of them are renowned chefs and owners of some of the most exclusive restaurants in the world. Also, the three of them are from Spain. That itself constitutes a proof of the importance that cuisine has in the Spanish culture. Their approach to the Mediterranean diet have influenced our eating habits and nowadays everybody considers them the standard for good and healthy cuisine. They are like rock-stars: they appear on TV, sold books and play a relevant role in the Spanish culture.

Spanish eating habits AREN´T healthy

· One of the biggest diseases of the 21st century is stress

In this communications era, we are permanently stressed by our jobs, our relationships, the social media, the TV, the political situation, the economy and life itself. In this fast-crazy days sometimes is hard to stop and spend a little time taking care of our health and eating habits. Unhealthy fast food, meals eaten at full speed and changing schedules became our routine and, at the end of the day, our body pays the price.

· Spanish eating habits go further than the ingredients or cooking methods

The Spanish Tapas is not only a gastronomic proposal but a way of eating (standing, tasting different foods while drinking beer or wine) and socializing, which can make them a little unhealthy. The Siesta, one of the most exported Spanish habits, is considered by some a very healthy habit, meanwhile, some others consider it unhealthy and not the best way to digest your meals. Cooking with olive oil is much healthier than doing it with grease or butter, but still it not totally harmless, especially if you fry the food. Some of our habits are healthy in moderation, but the moment you go a little further they stop being healthy.

· In the industrial world we live, the food is getting less and less natural

Most of it contains preservatives, artificial coloring and pesticides that remove all the health impact that it might have on our body. Eating healthy is very difficult and expensive, and even though most of the Spanish people consider it essential, most of them simply don´t have the time or the economic resources to do it.

Luckily, besides all these facts, there are several reasons to be optimistic. Spanish people consider the lunch and the dinner a great chance to socialize; A moment to rest, to get to know your work colleagues and have a good time before getting back to work. On weekends the food becomes another leisure activity: cookouts, barbeques or just hanging out with your friends while eating some tapas.

In conclusion: it depends on the individual and his or her food choice, of course, but the Spanish food is inherently healthy and (most) of the Spanish eating habits are healthy.

What´s your opinion? Do you think Spanish eating habits are healthy?

Featured image: Ella Hoy