Croatia offers more than just the sun and the sea, spending a week here and adapting to the lifestyle may just save your life.
As I arrive to the beach, I can’t help but notice something – Croatian people are seriously beautiful. I look to my left and there is a mother with three children clambering around her and she looks better in a bikini than I do. To my right are three babas (grandmas), one of them looks like she was a swimsuit model in the 1950’s, the other two are a little more voluptuous, but they don’t look overweight, they look happy, like they have had a life well-lived… and we can’t forget the men, well, they are all flouting around in speedos and besides ‘the bulge’, nothing is bulging over.
Welcome to Croatia.
I’ve always marvelled at how everyone looks so healthy and in shape – considering I never see anyone running or working out here (I say this with a mild-touch of envy)! I have put it down to the Mediterranean diet and lifestyle. I have lived in NZ, Australia and London and while, particularly in NZ and Australia, we have good quality produce, majority of the time I opted for convenience – going to a large supermarket, or eating take-out. London is another beast entirely, life is fast, convenience is everything and I don’t think I cooked a meal once in two years living there. I went to the gym, but it only barely balanced out the crap I was putting into my body.
I never felt good, my tank was constantly running on reserves – ok the nightlife and job had a big part to play, but still.
Now, having lived in Croatia for let’s say two years full-time, I am healthier than I have ever been. I have never been huge, but I seem to have reduced some wobbly bits without even trying. There is little-to-no fast food here (besides pastries and pizza) and we cook every day. I shop in local markets as often as I can (compared to monstrous supermarkets), I eat more fresh fruit, vegetables, nuts, olive oil and fish and I have significantly reduced my dairy intake (cheese with prosciutto doesn’t count) and red meat. I also drink less alcohol – red wine also doesn’t count because there have been studies saying a little red wine may help promote a longer lifespan, is good for the heart, protects against certain cancers and is good for the mind… which is all good enough reason for me to pour a (generous) glass of domače (domestic) vino each night.
In short, I am eating a Mediterranean diet, living a Mediterranean lifestyle and I feel fan-fricken-tastic.
Reference to the Mediterranean diet, is nothing new and the benefits of the diet have been studied in Mediterranean countries before. But, in 2016 the Bio Med Central Medicine Journal published a study revealing that eating a Mediterranean diet “could lower (their) risk of developing heart disease and stroke”; this was from a study conducted on the British population – the first of its kind.
Another study published by the BMC Medicine Journal in January, 2017, revealed that “a higher adherence to a Mediterranean diet was associated with a 30% reduced risk for depression.”
Why am I telling you all of this? It may be stating the obvious, but if you are travelling or sailing in Croatia, embrace the food and lifestyle here. When I worked on yachts, quite often guests would arrive all bent-out-of-shape, stressed, having travelled or come directly from their high-intensity jobs. Many would also have a list of foods they did or did not eat – one of my favourites was a vegetarian who only wanted to eat bread and pasta, people who ‘don’t like seafood’, then there was a lady who didn’t want any olive oil on anything because ‘oils are unhealthy’… It wasn’t my place to step in and educate, though I always secretly smiled, because by the end of the week, guaranteed our chef had them eating the most gorgeous dishes they would never have considered – most of which were based around fresh vegetables, seafood and olive oil. Nothing fried (unless they asked), no heavy creams and sauces – light, simple, fresh. To je to (that’s it)!
Better yet, at the end of every week, I swear every single guest stepped off our boat, with a little more colour, pink in their cheeks and a skip in their step. I even had some guests write to me asking for the chef’s recipes – they were taking the Mediterranean lifestyle home with them!
So, while you are here, please indulge in all that is Croatia – the sun and sea, the culture and history and of course, the cuisine – it may just save your life!