The Rain in Spain: How Spain does the Mediterranean Diet

We’ve been to Greece and Italy on our international jaunt to explore the countries and cuisines that observe a Mediterranean diet and next on our journey is Spain. Join us as we explore the Mediterranean diet – Spanish style – as we celebrate National Nutrition Month with our resident dietitian, Kelly Bright.

Much has been said in our series on the practice of the Mediterranean diet – eat healthy fats, dark leafy greens, lean meats, ample fish and lots of whole foods. With those rules in mind, there are two staples of the Mediterranean diet that our host country, Spain, does especially well: Citrus and fish.

First up on the Spain train for healthy eating is citrus – from kumquats to lemons, grapefruits to oranges. Thanks to ample sunshine in the region, particularly along the coast – Spain is a haven for citrus production. In fact, they love it so much that in 1485, the coastal town of Marbella built the Plaza de las Naranjas, which literally translates to “the square of oranges.” Aptly named, the striking town center is planted end-to-end with orange trees. Citrus has plenty of healthy attributes, not the least of which is — it’s high in Vitamin C. Vitamin C is an antioxidant known to help heal wounds and aid in the synthesis of collagen. “Citrus fruits also contain antioxidants called flavonoids,” Kelly says. “Flavanoids can inhibit tumor growth and the spread of tumors, plus they’ve been shown to improve blood flow and reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke and blood clots.” Bring on the citrus, please.

Next up, eat your fish. Period. The Mediterranean Sea offers abundant seafood options and studies show that eating fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids several times a week may significantly reduce a young woman’s risk of developing heart disease. One study taking place from 1996 to 2008 collected data on some 49,000 pregnant women aged 15 to 49. They were followed for eight years and 577 cardiac events were recorded amongst them. Overall, the women who ate no fish were three times more likely to have had a cardiac condition – including hypertension, stroke and heart disease – than the women who ate fish high in omega-3’s at least once a week. The study also showed:

  • Fish rich in the best strain of omega-3 fatty acids include salmon, herring, mackerel, trout and halibut
  • Although fried fish in general is unhealthy, that cooking method probably doesn’t eliminate the beneficial fatty acids, according to the study
  • For those who are anti-fish, the study found data suggesting omega-3 supplements are also cardioproductive

Still not sold? Try this recipe for traditional Seafood paella and let your taste buds do the talking.

Chicken and Seafood Paella

Serves 6

  • 4 oz. Shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 8 oz. Chicken breast, raw
  • 2 ½ c. Shrimp stock
  • 2 tsp. Vegetable oil, divided
  • 2 oz. Onion, diced
  • 2 oz. Red bell pepper, diced
  • 2 oz. Green bell pepper, diced
  • ½ tsp. Turmeric
  • 1 tsp. Garlic, chopped
  • ½ tsp. Black pepper, ground
  • ½ tsp. Thyme, ground
  • 10 oz. Long grain white rice, uncooked
  • 14½ oz. Can diced tomatoes, drained (no added salt)
  • 12 oz. Chopped clams (canned or fresh – may substitute, squid, scallops, mussels or make your own
  • Lemon, sliced into wedges (for garnish)


Prepare shrimp stock according to recipe, or use a store bought variety. Warm stock through and set aside for later. Heat oil in medium size skillet over medium-high heat until chicken is cooked through, about 2 minutes. Once cool, cube chicken and refrigerate. Heat the remaining vegetable oil in a stock pot. Sauté onions and peppers until the onions are soft. Add turmeric, garlic, black pepper and thyme to the vegetables and sauté for 3 more minutes. Add rice to the stock pot and sauté for 3 minutes, stirring frequently. Add tomatoes and clams with juice to the stock pot, stir gently to combine. Add shrimp stock to the stock pot and stir well. Cook uncovered until the rice is tender, about 20 minutes. Return the chicken to the stock pot and warm through, about 3 minutes. Add shrimp to the stock pot. Cook until shrimp is opaque and cooked through. Serve with lemon wedges.

Shrimp Stock
  • 2 c. Uncooked shrimp, tail off, frozen
  • 2 ½ c. Water
  • 1 tsp. Salt
  • 1 ½ tsp. Old Bay seasoning
  • ¼ c. Yellow onion, chopped
  • ¼ c. Celery, chopped


Place onions, celery, water, salt and crab boil seasoning in a stock pot and bring to boil. Boil for 15 to 20 minutes, adding more water as needed to have a finished amount of 2 ½ cups. Add shrimp, return to boil. Boil until shrimp turns opaque and comes to the surface of the water. Remove shrimp from stock with a skimmer. Place the shrimp in a bowl and cover with ice. Once the shrimp has cooled down, cover and refrigerate and hold cold for use in another recipe. Strain the stock into a stock pot and heat until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Use immediately or cover and refrigerate. Use within 5 days.

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