Healthy Epicurean, WWB Book Wise Club

The WWB Fall ‘Book Wise’ Pick is ‘The Real Mediterranean Diet’ –A Practical Guide on How You Can Mediterraneanize Your Diet and Lifestyle

Today is the first day of Fall and yes we are heading into another Fall and Winter season with a menacing virus still making trouble!  Timing couldn’t be better for the WWB Book Wise Fall Pick‘The Real Mediterranean Diet’. What I love about this book is it is not a typical diet cook book, but rather a celebration of living life well at optimal levels! It features the #1 diet in the world, shares recipes from around the Mediterranean region, and gives you an excellent education on nutritional science. But wait–there’s more! Dr. Poole also takes you on a armchair journey where you will learn about culture where the healthiest diet in the world was born.  While the tagline of this book  “a practical guide to understanding and achieving the healthiest diet in the world” is accurate, it’s almost deceptive because it is so much more and a pleasure to read.

I’m thrilled Dr. Poole has returned to chat with me about his new book and generously shared one of his favorite recipes from a USA chef and lover of all things Mediterranean. If there is one shining light in this terrible pandemic it’s that we have returned to our kitchens and have fallen in love with REAL FOOD again. We also have come to realize nutritious food is our first line of defense ( after the vaccine in Covid’s case) against most health conditions in general. This book is a must read and must USE for getting through Fall/Winter 21!

Let’s chat with the doctor and learn more about The Real Mediterranean Diet’. After you read the Q&A and purchase the book via the links shared ( I know you will!), visit his pageand learn more about his impressive work as a internationally renowned authority on the science and application of the Mediterranean Diet and lifestyle. You should know Dr. Poole has been championing the Mediterranean diet long before it became the ‘it’ diet and long before he wrote his books. He’s been very dedicated to educating his patients and his own peers in the field of medicine. He was an early adopter of ‘lifestyle as medicine’ via his passion for the Mediterranean culture, lifestyle, and food. I am honored to select his second book as the Fall Book Wise Pick and will end my introduction with his words. “My ambition is to change lives – to dramatically and permanently make a difference to our health and enjoyment of life”.  He is most definitely a WWB Healthy Epicurean!

Laura Connolly. Founder of World Wise Beauty



Lauroly Q- If you go to a supermarket today in the U.S, there are a plethora of specialized publications on the magazine racks featuring the Mediterranean diet. The reason for this is the Mediterranean diet has been voted #1 consistently for several years and recommended by respected medical institutions in the USA as the healthiest diet in the world. And it . But you knew this a long time ago didn’t you! Your first book was ‘The Olive Oil Diet’ which I featured here at WWB in 2017. Even prior to your first book, you were traveling around the world attending medical conferences promoting the science behind the diet and particularly the health benefits of olive oil.  ‘The Olive Oil Diet’ was very comprehensive and full of solid scientific research, and I am so  pleased you have followed up your book with ‘The Real Mediterranean Diet’ . Your new book gives us the real context needed to help us embrace the Mediterranean diet in a practical and enjoyable way. So let’s start with your title. What do you mean by ‘real’?

Dr. Simon Poole: People are often aware that the Mediterranean Diet is a really healthy way of living, but we so often hear it summarized in just a few sentences, simply listing some of the most common foods. Alternatively it can sometimes be “hijacked” by those I call “the macronutrient warriors” who promote it as a low fat or low carb diet. To gain a deeper understanding and to unlock the extraordinary power of the Mediterranean Diet, we need to dig a little deeper, and uncover some of the secrets of the ways in which colorful and fresh ingredients interact in the process of cooking combinations, as well as the way in which they can affect our gut microbiome and even turn on and off good and bad genes. The journey of discovery is fascinating and rewarding, and we can trace the history of the relationship between food and health back to the birth of medicine in antiquity, whilst seeing the science in more recent times explaining the way in which antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds including vitamins, minerals and polyphenols in plants can have a profoundly beneficial effect on our health.

We are now even learning how such compounds are affected by the way in which our food is produced, from farm to fork, and also how we can smell and taste these amazing nutrients and so recognize them, for example, in the deliciously fruity and bitter extra virgin olive oils of Andalusia, the rich, peppery and robust red wines from the high plateaus of Argentina or the spicy tagines of North Africa, slow cooked for hours in clay ovens. To uncover these stories and to learn how we can gain the most from this lifestyle, known intuitively by the people who preserve the traditions in the Mediterranean, is to fully understand the real Mediterranean Diet.

Lauroly Q- Your passion for Mediterranean food is so contagious, dare I use that word!  Your emphasis on the cultures and traditions in the book really gives us context. Your book is not about diet as much as it is about embracing a healthy lifestyle which includes the diets inspired by the Mediterranean culture and region. Right now we are experiencing a pandemic which on top of the obesity crisis is really lethal. With this crisis of obesity, we have a population worldwide with a host of chronic diseases causing chronic inflammation which then creates huge challenges for their immune systems. Add a deadly virus that triggers the immune system to overreact and we are in serious trouble. The ancient wisdom “Let food be thy medicine” was never so relevant as now. How can the ‘The Real Mediterranean Diet’help us in the age of pandemics, obesity and degenerative diseases? Why should we all embrace the Mediterranean diet right now beside it being ‘fantastically delicious’?

Dr. Simon Poole: In recent years, researchers have discovered overwhelming evidence which supports two important broad, and quite revolutionary conclusions about health and nutrition. Firstly, between 70 to 80 percent of chronic illnesses are highly influenced or directly caused by lifestyle factors, including diet. Secondly, that the majority of those chronic illnesses are associated with chronic inflammation. We know that there are factors in our environment resulting in the formation of harmful and reactive free radicals and so called “oxidative stress” which promote chronic inflammation, and that elements in our diet including polyphenols and other antioxidants can suppress and control those chain reactions of inflammation and cell damage, protecting us from heart disease, strokes, dementia, cancers and other inflammatory conditions.

Whilst it would clearly be wrong to suggest that a dietary pattern can protect completely from this terrible current Pandemic, it is certainly true that the illness has affected those people with existing conditions of chronic inflammation to a significantly greater degree. If a diet can reduce unwanted chronic inflammation and has that capacity to reduce blood pressure, weight and even reverse a pre or established diabetic profile, then it must surely be the most healthy way to support our immune system when it is challenged by a sudden acute and life threatening illness. It is too soon perhaps to draw too many conclusions but there have been several peer reviewed articles suggesting benefits of the Mediterranean Diet in mitigating the worst effects of the current Pandemic, as well as the suggestion that the beneficial effects on blood clotting might improve the prognosis of individuals susceptible to blood clots. Meanwhile though, the advice must be to have a healthy lifestyle, adhere to public health advice and get vaccinated!

Lauroly Q-  In the chapter bringing the Mediterranean diet home, you have a section called ‘Mediterraneanizing our diets’. One might think this is just a list of foods to begin using, but we find out it’s so much more than that. I thought it was one of the most important chapters in your book. Can you share what you really mean by this term and what you hope the readers will take away from your excellent book.

Dr. Simon Poole: One of the difficulties people often perceive is how to bring to everyday life the idea of eating a wonderful meal of sea bass and extra virgin olive oil with the setting sun shimmering over the crystal clear waters of the Med and the sound of the bells of the goats grazing in the nearby olive grove. I can sympathize with that, but also reassure readers that it has been shown that adopting the Mediterranean Diet beyond the Mediterranean shores is not only enjoyable but extraordinarily beneficial for health. We can even use the principles of the Mediterranean Diet and use more local and sustainable ingredients, containing their own array of polyphenols and other antioxidants . “Fusion Cuisine” is a popular concept and it is possible to mix foods from different traditions in a way which gains the benefits of the Mediterranean Diet. Throughout history the Mediterranean Diet itself has evolved, for example including spices from the East, coffee from Africa, as well as tomatoes and chocolate from the New World.

Lauroly Q- I love the fusion idea of gleaning and adopting healthy habits and rituals. My readers will be so excited to learn that they can achieve a Mediterranean diet in a week. I said the book was comprehensive but it is also inspiring and practical. I love how you featured chefs from around the real Mediterranean region and their delicious recipes. Which one is your personal favorite?

Dr. Simon Poole: The book is divided into three sections – in part one we unravel the history and discover the science of the diet, while part two involves the journey to adopt the healthy and delicious Mediterranean Diet using common and readily available ingredients. A scoring method extrapolated from research into the diet allows the reader to track progress. Finally, I have been privileged to meet many inspirational chefs from every corner of the world who put the principles of the Mediterranean Diet into practice and they have generously contributed some of their favorite recipes for readers to enjoy. Some are quick and easy to prepare whilst others are more experimental and are emblematic of the “baut cuisine” one might experience in their restaurants. The science and the art of the Mediterranean Diet continues to evolve!

It is difficult to single out one recipe as my favorite, but as you are based in the USA here is one from the charming Amy Riolo, a wonderful ambassador for the Mediterranean Diet in the USA, with whom I had the great privilege to share a stage and cooking demo at the Harvard Club in New York a couple of years ago. In this particular recipe, seafood from the coast can be used, perhaps with one of the great Californian extra virgin olive oils you have in the USA.

Zuppa di Pesce
Italian Seafood Soup ( courtesy of Amy Riolo)

One of my favorite memories in my ancestral hometown of Crotone, Italy is going to the marina to buy seafood with my cousin Angela. After picking up the freshest choices possible from the sparkling Ionian Sea, we then head back to her home to cook. In Italy, as in other places in the Mediterranean region, seafood that is not caught that day is not considered fresh.
Each Italian coastal region has their own variation of this stew. When making fish soup, local fishermen would traditionally use the fish left behind after more valuable fish have sold. Use your favorite seafood combination to come up with the version of this dish you like best.

Serves: 8
Complexity: ***
1/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 tablespoon minced parsley
1/2 teaspoon crushed red chile flakes
Pinch of good-quality saffron
5 cloves garlic, minced
12 ounces calamari, cleaned and cut into 1-inch pieces
12 ounces baby octopus, cleaned, and cut into 1-inch pieces, if desired
1 cup dry white wine
2 cups chopped fresh tomatoes, juice reserved
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup Homemade Seafood Stock or water
1 (1-pound) mullet or other white fish fillet, cut into 2-inch pieces
12 ounces large shell-on shrimp
12 ounces mussels, scrubbed and debearded

1. Heat oil in a 6-quart saucepan over medium heat. Add parsley, saffron, chile flakes, and minced garlic, and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add calamari and octopus and cook, stirring occasionally, until seafood is opaque, about 4 minutes. Add wine and cook, stirring often, until the liquid has evaporated, about 20 minutes.

2. Add tomatoes along with their juice, season with pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until seafood is tender, about 10 minutes. Stir in stock, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes.

3. Add monkfish and cook, covered, until fish is just firm, about 5 minutes. Add mullet and shrimp to the pot, and scatter mussels over top. Cook, covered, without stirring (so as not to break up the seafood), until the mullet is just cooked through and the mussels have just opened, about 10 minutes.

4. Ladle stew into bowls and serve.

Lauroly Closing- Sounds delicious! Thank you for writing a wonderful and much needed book and for joining me once again Dr. Poole.
Dr. Simon Poole Closing: Pleasure to be back and thank you so much for your enthusiasm for the new book, Laura!