I’m on a multi-week vacation in Spain, and I wanted to post my report on Ibiza.
One of the mysteries of global health is why the people of the Mediterranean live longer with less heart disease. Experts credit the “Mediterranean Diet,” but if you look at what’s included, you’ll see little that boosts health:
It’s not the red wine—there is a strict linear relationship between the quantity of alcohol consumed and the risk of disease.
It’s not the hummus—garbanzo beans suffer from the same drawbacks as the rest of the bean family. Toxic proteins and low nutrient content are conveniently combined in a high carb package.
It’s not the lentils—see above, and include phytoestrogens, which are compounds that elicit similar effects to estrogen.
It’s not the figs, dates, and other fruits—Fructose is a particularly destructive form of sugar which prevents the body’s satiety mechanisms from functioning properly.
It’s not the olive oil—technically a juice, in its pure form olive oil is a superfood, with virus-fighting substances. However, because olive oil is such a valuable commodity, olive oil producers since biblical times have been cutting their merchandise with low quality oils. Even today—especially today—most grocery stores sell “olive oil” that’s actually a mix of the real thing and unhealthy seed oils. I buy olive oil manufactured in California, a state with strict requirements for food labeling, but who really knows what’s inside.
Frankly I’m finding that sticking to my clean keto diet on this vacation is a challenge. I can’t imagine it was easier in the past.
So what does account for the health among people who live near the Mediterranean Sea?
What immediately strikes visitors to Spain, and one of the treasures of the Mediterranean, is the light environment here. Although the country has the same latitude as New Jersey, the sun illuminates the land and sea with a unique glow. I have been in Spain for three weeks, and in Ibiza for several days, and I have yet to see one cloud cover the sun. The air is dry enough that you can spend several hours outside without craving air conditioning, and you are spared the punishing rays of a place like Miami.
I’ve written before that when it comes to health, responsible sun exposure is second in importance only to sleep. With enough sun and plentiful meat and fish, I’m pretty sure you can live forever.
What no doubt contributes to Mediterranean health is walking up and down the steep terrain. Ibiza, and really all of the Spanish coast, is a community built into a cliff. Although I haven’t been to the gym since early June, I end every day covered in sweat. The native population of Spain has no doubt been carrying water and food uphill since the territory was first settled. Permanent residents must have the greatest hamstrings and calves on earth.
The last piece of Mediterranean health worth mentioning is the locals’ mentality of gratitude and patience.
For this American, I am close to having a meltdown every time I leave my Ibiza rental to find food. Grocery superstores don’t exist in Ibiza, so you need to visit a carnicería for meat, a pescadería for fish, and so on. Today, my wife and I went looking for fish in a small village called Sant Joan de Labritja. After our drive along the winding roads to Sant Joan, with locals tailgating and honking the entire way, we discovered that the recommended store was closed for summer.
Nearby, at a Spanish version of the mini-mart, we did find some decent frozen fish. But per usual, the shopping experience was a giant pain. There are no carts or baskets, you have to shuffle sideways down narrow aisles while hugging your groceries, and at the checkout you must buy each plastic bag and bag the groceries yourself.
In the United States, I’ll run over people’s toes with my shopping cart to save 30 seconds in line. The inhabitants here must have an abundance of patience and tolerance for a totally different style of life.