spain, wellbeing

Plant-Based Eating in Zaragoza

This year, with the crazy pandemic still in full swing, I’m spending most of my life tucked away in Zaragoza, where I spend a lot of my free time taking long walks, riding my bike, and reading. Here’s a little glimpse into my current life.

This week I read a book called “How Not to Die: Discover the Foods Scientifically Proven to Prevent and Reverse Disease” on Kindle Unlimited. The title obviously jumped out at me – it’s very in-your-face, isn’t it? And it has a lot of good reviews, so I figured I would give it a shot. I know that factory farming is awful. I realize my money shouldn’t be supporting those types of businesses. I’ve seen the documentaries like Forks Over Knives and a few others – some of which are just too militantly vegan. So I wondered what this could possibly tell me that I didn’t already know.

As soon as I started reading, I was intrigued. The author, Michael Greger, is a doctor who has spent time diving deep into nutrition studies and research over his career. Greger offers compelling evidence that a plant-based diet is the most effective one for many different reasons. He does get repetitive in the first part of the book, saying over and over again, “in a petri dish that’s all well and good, but how did (vegetable or fruit) perform in human studies? As it turns out, (vegetable or fruit) was highly effective in treating or curing (disease).” Okay, okay. But it did appeal to my logical side rather than try to convince me of all the evils of the meat industry and the poor animals, etc. etc. According to the over 9,000 reviews, it seems I’m not the only one who was convinced – it seems more effective to give people positive encouragement toward something rather than negative information against something. Finance blogger Laurie of The Three Year Experiment read the book as well, came to similar conclusions, and proceeded to write a fantastic review.

(Side note: If I ever do become fully vegetarian, this would be how I frame it – “I feel great! This is the good stuff it’s done for me!” Rather than “we’re murdering innocent animals!” I’ve never really been into proselytizing anyway, so I’d probably keep it mostly to myself. One topic I’m interested in diving deeper into is why omnivorous humans are so emotionally attached to meat and so defensive around vegetarians/vegans.)

The second part of the book is all about the HOW – exactly which foods to consume more of, how much, and what they’re good for. He presents a “Daily Dozen” list of essentials that you should consume every day. It’s actually not that hard, and I found I was already eating a good number of them.

Here’s your Daily Dozen – the little º is for the number of servings.

  • ººº Beans
  • º Berries
  • º Other Fruits
  • ºº Cruciferous Vegetables
  • ºº Greens
  • ºº Other Vegetables
  • º Flaxseeds
  • º Nuts
  • º Spices
  • ººº Whole Grains
  • ººººº Beverages
  • º Exercise

It was a really enlightening read, and I think I can be convinced to cut down on (or even… eliminate?) meat consumption while increasing my plant intake. This week I was inspired and filled my kitchen with all sorts of colorful plants and even flaxseeds. The only non-plant food I’ve eaten is a little goat and sheep cheese as snack or garnish. Five days in, my skin is looking healthy and I feel like I’m running on clean fuel, if that makes sense. I’m eating at least two pieces of fruit, a ton of vegetables and some grains. My downstairs bakery has a fantastic multigrain baguette!

Just this week I’ve made –

  • Green beans with tomatoes and garlic with a side of multigrain pasta
  • Garbanzos with carrots, onions, leeks and peppers seasoned with turmeric and cumin
  • Big salads full of beets, radishes, carrots and walnuts
  • Vegetarian chili with two types of beans (recipe linked – this is one of the most wonderful chilis I’ve ever eaten!! I made it with red beans instead of pinto.)
  • Broccoli, mushroom and purple cabbage stir fry with ginger peanut sauce (sauce recipe linked – this is possibly the biggest party I ever had in my mouth.)

Though it may disrupt my status quo, I’m grateful for the creative inspiration. As Dr. Greger says, even if  some of the studies are still inconclusive, why NOT eat more vegetables in the meantime?

This chili tho, srsly

Here in Zaragoza, I don’t eat out at restaurants much at all, and if I do, it’s usually takeout. My favorite places at the moment just happen to either be vegetarian, or have great vegetarian options! Mr. Dumbo is a Syrian restaurant offering falafel, baba ganoush and other delightful dishes for a very low price. Just 9.50 for two dishes to share makes the perfect dinner. Restaurante Baobab is another great vegetarian restaurant, though a bit more pricey. I love the pumpkin ravioli! For some super basic vegetarian food, Los Helechos never disappoints. At just 3.50 a plate, the restaurant is full every single day at lunch time, and it only opens for lunch. Great outdoor option in good weather: ordering takeout from Los Helechos and taking it to Parque Grande!

Selfie stick: a must-have on all picnic outings

This week I witnessed a spectacular sunset on my long evening walk along the river. The building that appears in basically all my pictures here is the baroque style Cathedral-Basílica of Our Lady of Pilar. Going back a bit in history, apparently the virgin Mary appeared on a column (pillar) here in Zaragoza in the year 40 A.D. So of course, a chapel had to be built to protect said column. That chapel doesn’t exist anymore, but the beginnings of the current Basilica were started in around the 13th century. Over the next few hundred years, the church was remodeled and expanded several times into what it is now.

As one of the top highlights and largest buildings of the city, you get glimpses of the Pilar nearly everywhere you go. It’s actually an incredible building to visit, with 9 chapels under its enormous dome-shaped ceilings.  On the outside, the domes are painted with yellows and blues. The basilica has tall towers on either end, and you can actually take an elevator up to the top for just a few euros! I highly recommend it – you get spectacular views of the whole city from up there.

Zaragoza has everything I need in a city right now. Bike lanes, parks, historic sites, decent vegetarian restaurants, and it’s totally walkable.