Posted on July 25 2021
Bite into a soft Sabich with a crispy falafel center or sit with a warm pot of Shakshuka. The Israeli cuisine has so much to offer!
The Israeli diet can be among the richest as well as healthiest diets in the world. It is an integral Mediterranean diet and comes with a lot of plant- diversity. With it's plant- centric food philosophy and the generous use of herbs and spices, Israeli food is not only a treat for your taste buds, but also for your body.
The utmost beauty of the cuisine lies in its natural and local ingredients. Be it the rich and creamy hummus or the fresh plucked veggies of the famous Israeli salad. This cuisine can indeed provide you with a sense of warmth even if you have it for the hundredth time.
Surrounded by the Middle Eastern countries and Mediterranean Sea, Israel's cooking traditions are still evolving! As such, a blend is visible in the cuisine of all the local dishes.
Israeli cuisine is a medley, inspired by Jews from the Diaspora, and even some adopted Arab dishes. For example, hummus and tahini come from the Mediterranean cuisine, and Shakshuka from North Africa. Also, the Schnitzel comes from Ashkenazi.
History of Israeli Cuisine
Israel's cooking traditions consist of historical foods and preparation methods. These span over 3000 years of history. Over the years, these traditions see influences from Asia, Africa and Europe. There is also influence from religious and ethnic flow which led Israel being a culinary melting pot.
Since there is so much religious influence on Israeli food, you will notice a lot of 'biblically inspired ingredients' such as figs, pomegranate, wine and even indigenous foods such as prickly pear (tzabar)
Around the time of its independence, the existing Palestinian populations were Arabian descent. They enjoyed a cuisine generally adapted from North Africa and the Middle East.
Around that time, there was also the arrival of a large number of Eastern European Jews to Israel. They brought along several traditional Jewish dishes prepared in Poland, Hungary, and Russia.
With people from 70 different countries, Israel now has exceptional and diverse cuisines.
Israel is also geographically blessed, surrounded by coastal plains, cooler hills and the Mediterranean. Thus, there is plenty access to local iingredients.
Common foods in a typical Israeli diet
Geography is essential in the development of any cuisine. And Israeli cuisine is no different! Food items common to the Mediterranean region are most used in Israeli dishes as well.
These include chickpeas, olives, figs, pomegranates, wheat, beans, couscous, bulgur, and lentils.
There are also avocadoes, mangoes, dates, vegetables, eggplants, tomatoes, and zucchini.
Spices are another thing that has a unique place in the Israeli diet. These include sesame seeds, cumin, turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, and saffron. There is abundant use of herbs like mint, sage, thyme, rosemary, fennel, oregano, lemon verbena, and bay leaves.
Health benefits and diseases related to Israeli diet
Israeli diet is vegan and vegetarian friendly. It is well known among the vegan community because of its profound focus on vegetables and pulses. Studies also demonstrated the Mediterranean diet to be helpful for weight loss. It is also good in prevention of heart attacks, diabetes- type 2 and premature death.
There is also dairy, fish and very little meat. But animal derived foods do not take the center stage when it comes to filling up your dinner plate.
If anything, Israeli food is low in saturated and trans fat and rich in fiber, carbohydrates and other vitamins and minerals. Much of the fat content in this diet comes from olives, healthy oil, nuts and avocados. The use of raw vegetables for a warm couscous salad or stir fry only adds to the fiber content of Israeli food.
However with more westernization of the traditional diet with processed meats, Israeli cuisine is becoming unhealthy. Meat is beginning to replace the healthy vegetarian alternatives. We see baked foods from unhealthy ingredients like flour, cheese, and dairy products. Thus, there is a rise in number of people who suffer from obesity, diabetes and chronic illnesses.
There is also evidence from certified sources that Israel food products are unhealthy. There is high traces of salt, sugar and fat. It is especially true for packaged food products. We see cases of obesity and diabetes reaching new heights.
Additionally, Israel is also among the countries consuming highest amount of sugar. According to reports, children in Israel consume more sweetened beverages than in the US. The rates of salt consumption in Israel has also gone up the past decade. It is almost double the recommended quantity with even higher rates among children.
Vegan Israeli diet
Tel Aviv, the capital of Israel, has close to 10% of the population who follow a vegetarian/ vegan diet. Israel is already a heaven for all vegetarians and vegans.
According to The Daily Meal, Israel (Tel Aviv) beats New York, Berlin and even Chennai when it comes to being a top destination for Vegan traveller.
Israeli cuisine is anyways rich in vegetables, fruits, legumes and grains. Any typical Israeli dish can be easily veganised by removing eggs or meat. It will still be wholesome and satiating.
It is actually quite common to find vegan shawarma with jackfruit instead of meat and Chraymeh made with Tofu instead of fish in Israel. Checkout the below blog if you wish to find some yummy vegan options:
Israel is also a land of immigrants from all over the world with their own cultures and cuisines. Being a very young and still evolving nation, people here love trying new innovations.
Sample one day meal plan (3000 calories)
Building muscle mass with Vegan Israeli diet
Nutrition is essential in gaining muscles. Besides being mindful of the amount of proteins consumed, the overall calories required to gain muscle mass is essential.
The protein intake of 0.8-1.2 grams per kg of bodyweight is optimal. So if my bodyweight is 55 kilo's, I should aim to consume roughly 44 grams of proteins to maintain my muscle mass and 66 grams of proteins to gain muscle mass. The exact number of calories required will vary based on your activity level, metabolism and age.
A plant- based diet is most suited to help gain muscle mass, as it is naturally anti- inflammatory and easy on the digestive system. If you are worried about the quality of plant protein sources VS animal proteins, watch this:
Here are some generic points to help gain weight on a plant- based diet:
- Vegan foods such as seitan, tofu, legumes, and quinoa, can help you meet your protein needs. Only consider a protein powder if you do not have time to cook. With proteins, excess is not always better and is even toxic to the kidneys.
- Make sure to incorporate enough fat into your diet. Healthy fats are not only important for protein synthesis (absorption), but also carry twice as many calories as carbs/ proteins. Make sure to consume 2-3 tbsp of nuts/ seeds with every meal. Besides this, emphasise on whole fat sources such as avocados, olives and soy beans.
- Choose fruits such as Kiwi and pineapples that hare high in Bromelain. Bromelain is a particular enzyme particularly found in pineapples that helps with protein absorption It also acting as a muscle relaxant and boosts recovery from long training hours.
- Cut down your consumption of refined carbohydrates, sugar, and trans fat. Artificial sweeteners lead to gut dysbiosis, weakening your intestine lining and leading to a leaky gut and IBS symptoms. Refined grains such as white bread, white rice and white pasta are devoid of not only fiber but also essential B vitamins. Stick to whole grain's and startch based carbs like potatoes, whole wheat pasta and brown rice.
- Learn the basics of macro nutrient calculation. Macros mean the ratio of proteins/ carbs and fats consumed in one day. And counting their daily intake will help you understand what suits best for you. According to the RDI for muscle gain, the following is ideal:
- Aim for around 15 to 20 grams of ground flaxseed powder each day. It is because flaxseeds also contain omega-3 fatty acids that help to boost recovery. Additionally, you can add walnuts and chia seeds to your daily meal plan.
- Stay in a state of a calorie surplus. This factor varies from person to person. It is because of the difference in training volume, gender, age, and genetic limits. For men, this calorie surplus is between 200-400 calories above their maintenance intake. And for women, this amount is between 100-300 calories above their maintenance intake.
- Include resistance training in your schedule. Only when the muscles are challenged will they grow. Follow the Jim Stoppani program Shortcut To Size if you have access to the gym. Progressive overloading will help to increase the length and diameter of your muscles.
- Give yourself time to rest and recover. Rest is vital to recover from exercise-induced stress. High amounts of pressure from exercise increase your cortisol. It also depletes your glycogen levels in the body. If you are not resting adequately, this will result in muscle loss.
As we already saw, the Israeli diet can be very healthy if consumed with local ingredients. They have several dishes that are vegan-friendly. These include pita bread, hummus, baked falafel, lentil soup, stuffed vine leaves. You will also get delicacies like sambusak, sabich, and basbousa.
Following a vegan diet has several health benefits. Besides gaining muscle mass alone, following a vegan diet is protective against from lifestyle diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, PCOS and even some types of cancer.
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