I am a researcher who studies food as medicine, so many people assume I have strict eating habits to keep myself healthy. I’m often asked what kind of diet I follow. The truth is that I love to enjoy my meals, and I don’t follow a specific diet. Instead, I follow a food approach. I call it the MediterAsian way of eating, because it brings together the best foods and most tantalizing flavors from two of the healthiest traditional food cultures in the world.

Both Mediterranean and Asian cuisines are based on whole foods, fruits, vegetables, herbs, nuts, whole grains, and, in coastal regions, seafood —ingredients that contain bioactives, the natural substances that improve metabolism, burn away harmful fat, lower inflammation, build gut health, improve circulation, and strengthen immunity.

These defensive functions protect us against a whole range of diseases across our life span, from cardiovascular disease to diabetes to cancer and neurodegenerative conditions like dementia. And by eating MediterAsian-style, you can achieve these goals with meals that taste great and draw from the traditional recipes and cooking styles from two very distinct regions of the world.

Historical approach

The MediterAsian approach to eating dates back 2,000 years, and its origins are rooted in the exchange of foods by ancient traders who traveled the Silk Road, a series of routes that connected China to the Mediterranean Sea. Long before anyone coined the term fusion in relation to cuisine, these travelers were exchanging and combining fresh, dried, and fermented ingredients along this trading route. If you’d taken a road trip back then, you would have eaten at rest stops along the way and experienced MediterAsian food. The transport, sale, and cooking of healthy whole foods, much of it plant-based, along the Silk Road marked the beginning of our modern culinary melting pot from East to West and vice versa.

Silk Road traders experienced different styles of cuisine using the exact same ingredients, dried and fresh ,during their journey from one end of the route to the other. They intermingled and swapped spices like turmeric, ginger, pepper, saffron, and cinnamon, which are now common to the cooking of China, India, Central Asia, and the Mediterranean countries of Italy, Greece, Spain, and the south of France.

Fresh vegetables, fruits, herbs, spices, and dried and fermented foods, all now recognized as being important for gut health and immunity, were a cultural currency for ingredient exchange.

Healthy principles

The MediterAsian approach is based on principles that encourage healthy eating:

  • Eat seasonally.
  • Cook using fresh and dried whole food ingredients.
  • Make produce-centric meals that include legumes, herbs, and healthy oils, along with fish and other seafood.
  • Minimize meat and make it more of a side dish or condiment than the main part of the meal.

The first step is getting the right type of high-quality ingredients. Your local grocery store will likely stock a decent selection. Even better, hit up a farmer’s market.

Start with the produce section and get to know the fresh foods that are available right now in the season. Identify the foods you know you enjoy eating, and take note of the ones you see but have yet to explore.

Buy a bottle of high-quality extra-­virgin olive oil and keep it on your counter for cooking and to use as a condiment. If you can’t find the ingredients where you live, don’t worry; almost everything can be ordered online and delivered to your doorstep.

Not a rigid plan

The MediterAsian Way is not about rigid rules but is flexible and personal. You get to choose what you enjoy. For inspiration, select recipes and ingredients from any of the 21 Mediterranean and the 47 Asian countries—a total of 68 culinary cultures to choose from, spanning east to west.

You could spend several lifetimes exploring these cuisines. You may already have favorite recipes that fit into the MediterAsian genre, but if you need ideas, a simple way to match a seasonal ingredient with a recipe is to do an online search. Just type “Recipe” “[Your main ingredient]” and “[Mediterranean or Asian cuisine you are interested in exploring].”

Watch videos from enthusiastic home cooks or professional chefs who are excited to show you exactly how to prepare their favorite dishes along with cooking tips. Before long, you’ll find yourself with your own favorite list of MediterAsian dishes.

10 tips for MediterAsian eating

  1. Eat with intention. Choose your food wisely. You have only so many meals in your lifetime, so make each one count. Cut down or cut out the foods that harm your health, and focus on the ones that bring you joy and improve your health.
  2. Skip a meal (or two). If you can’t find anything healthy you want to eat, feel free to miss a meal. Skipping a meal improves your metabolism, burns body fat, and activates your health defenses. Just be careful not to overeat at your next meal.
  3. Go for fresh. Fresh foods are the backbone of MediterAsian eating. They contain the bioactive compounds that you want to activate your health. Avoid ultraprocessed foods whenever you can.
  4. Personalize your food choices. It’s all about you: your preferences, your tastes, your circumstances, and your health concerns. Choose what you enjoy that is healthy and available and have it your way. Don’t settle for less.
  5. Respect tradition. Respect traditional recipes and methods of preparation. This means buying the right ingredients, preparing them from scratch, and making sure to develop full flavors in your meals. Take advantage of the wisdom of centuries. When it comes to healthy food, new inventions are rarely better.
  6. Eat in moderation. Eat for enjoyment, but do not overload your body. Portion control is key.
  7. Drink the trinity. Three beverages have uncontested health benefits: water, tea, and coffee. Drink them before, during, or after a meal or any time of the day.
  8. Eat together. It’s better for your health to eat with family and friends. Social bonds lower your stress, and you tend to eat more slowly in company. Sharing food makes it easier to appreciate what’s on your plate.
  9. Open your mind and explore. Be adventurous and try new foods. Variety helps you become healthier. Take the opportunity to discover your next favorite dish.
  10. Live to eat. Give yourself permission to enjoy the pleasure of food.


If you follow these basic MediterAsian principles, you will enjoy food the way I do, and soon you will find yourself loving your food and loving your health at the same time. After all, almost everyone can find something they love to eat on a Mediterranean or Asian menu.

Edamame Hummus

Truly MediterAsian. Use fresh or frozen soybeans to make this twist on a classic dip.


  • 1½ cups edamame
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp tahini
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice
  • ½ tsp lemon zest
  • ¼ cup fresh parsley, roughly chopped
  • 2 Tbsp cilantro, roughly chopped
  • 6 basil leaves
  • ½ tsp honey
  • ½ tsp kosher salt
  • pinch cayenne pepper


Fill a medium saucepan three-quarters of the way with water and bring to a boil. Add edamame and cook for 5 minutes. Drain and set aside to cool for 5 minutes. Place edamame into a food processor or blender and pulse or blend until smooth. Add remaining ingredients and pulse or blend until smooth. Serve immediately or store, covered, in the refrigerator for four days.

Serves 6

Countries to Draw Cuisine Inspiration From

  • Albania
  • Algeria
  • Brunei
  • Cambodia
  • China
  • Croatia
  • Cyprus
  • France
  • Georgia
  • Greece
  • Egypt
  • India
  • Indonesia
  • Israel
  • Italy
  • Japan
  • Laos
  • Lebanon
  • Libya
  • Malaysia
  • Mongolia
  • Morocco
  • Pakistan
  • Philippines
  • Singapore
  • Slovenia
  • South Korea
  • Spain
  • Thailand
  • Turkey
  • Vietnam
  • Yemen

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