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FOOD & DRINK

Junk food ‘not so bad’ when eaten with Mediterranean diet

New research shows that eating fatty, sugary food has no impact on the likelihood of heart attacks if eaten alongside a healthy Mediterranean diet.

Junk food 'not so bad' when eaten with Mediterranean diet
A new study isn't entirely bad news for burger lovers. Photo: rob_rob2001/Flickr

The virtues of the Mediterranean diet have long been extolled but new research confirms that the favoured diet of Spaniards is the best for a healthy heart – and following it could mean you can enjoy the odd guilt-free burger or kebab. 

The study, published in the European Heart Journal, showed that eating a Mediterranean diet was associated with a lower risk of heart attacks, but also highlighted that eating a fatty, sugary, more “Western” diet, did not increase the risk.

The study, carried out with 15,000 people across 39 countries, confirmed that the classic Mediterranean diet – fresh fruit and vegetables, oily fish and olive oil – can help to prevent heart attacks and cardiovascular disease in those who have already have heart disease.

There were three fewer heart attacks, strokes or deaths per 100 people among those following a Mediterranean diet than those following a less healthy diet.

Researchers asked 15,482 people with heart disease with the average age of 67 to fill out a questionnaire when they joined the study. The questionnaire included questions on diet, including how many times a week participants ate meat, fish, dairy, whole grains, vegetables, fruit, desserts etc.

Depending on their answers they were given a Mediterranean Diet Score (MDS) which gave more points to those eating more healthy food with a range of 0-24. 

“We found that every one unit increase in the Mediterranean Diet Score was associated with a seven percent reduction in the risk of heart attacks, strokes or death from cardiovascular or other causes in patients with existing heart disease,” said Ralph Stewart of Auckland City Hospital, University of Auckland, who authored the study. 

“In contrast, greater consumption of foods thought be less healthy and more typical of Western diets, was not associated with an increase in these adverse events, which we had not expected.”

He continued: “The research suggests we should place more emphasis on encouraging people with heart disease to eat more healthy foods, and perhaps focus less on avoiding unhealthy foods.”

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FOOD & DRINK

Six Barcelona bars serving delicious free tapas

The Local's Esme Fox, a long-term Barcelona resident, shares some of her favourite city bars that serve free tapas when you buy a drink.

Six Barcelona bars serving delicious free tapas

Spain is of course celebrated for its tapas, small plates of food, designed for sharing and consisting of favourites such as patatas bravas (fried potatoes topped with spicy sauce), pimientos de padrón (fried green peppers) and croquetas (croquettes of different varieties such as ham or mushrooms). 

One theory is that tapas were invented in order to cover your wine or beer glass, so that flies and other bugs wouldn’t fly in. The barman would give customers a piece of bread topped with jamón (ham) or queso (cheese) in order to act as a lid or in Spanish ‘tapa’, hence the name tapas.

Although most cities in Spain no longer serve free tapas when you buy a drink, there are still some cities where you are guaranteed a free snack. This is still true in the southern cities of Granada, Almería and Jaén, in León and Segovia, as well as a few others dotted around the country.

Despite this, you can still find the odd bar serving the old-fashioned free tapa in some of Spain’s largest and most expensive cities, including Madrid and Barcelona.

So, next time you’re in the Catalan capital, save some money by visiting one of these bars, where you’ll still get served a free tapa along with your drink.  

READ ALSO: Top ten Madrid bars serving free tapas, one for each barrio

Keep in mind, you won’t be served a free drink if you just order a coffee and sometimes not with a soft drink either, it’s usually when you buy a glass of beer or wine.

Ca’l Chusco

This small traditional bar in the old fisherman’s neighbourhood of Barceloneta offers one free tapa every time you order a drink. It’s usually something small and simple, but if you’re still hungry then you can always order one of their delicious paellas or plates or seafood too. 

Raspall
This cute and contemporary little tapas joint, situated on the edge of Gracia, is so popular that it often gets very crowded, so get here early if you want a spot at the bar. It costs around €2-4 for a drink and a small tapas dish, which you can choose from a large selection. There’s everything from croquetas and hummus to small sausages.

Pappa e Citti

It’s not just authentic Spanish bars offering free tapas in Barcleona, at traditional Sardinian restaurant Pappa e Citti in the barrio of Gracia, they offer it too. Be aware that free tapas with your drink is only served between 6-9pm. Small tapas offerings may have an Italian twist or maybe something simple like a piece of bread topped with cream cheese and caramelised onions.

La Xula Taperia

In the heart of the Gracia neighbourhood, this modern and stylish bar offers the closest thing to a Granadino-style free plate of tapas. Rather than just a small piece of bread topped with an ingredient, their free offerings include meatballs, anchovies or even ensaladilla rusa (Russian potato salad).

Casa Arana

Located in the heart of the Sant Andreu neighbourhood, not far from the metro stop of the same name, Casa Arana is a small local barrio bar. As well as the regular drinks on offer, they make their own beer in either tostada (toasted) or rubia (pale) varieties, which is served in a tall glass and looks like an ice cream sundae. The free tapa served with your drink is typically a piece of baguette topped with a simple ingredient such as jamón, chistorra (cured sausage) or cheese.

Cassette Bar

This tapas and cocktail bar located in the heart of Raval has a decidedly 80s themed vibe and name to match. They have been serving free tapas for the past 14 years – something typical like piece of bread and tomato topped with a slice of tortilla (Spanish omelette).

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