Is it possible to vacation and still find healthy food Puerto Rico? If you’re planning a trip to Puerto Rico, it’s more than likely you’re already in a really good mood. All that sun, sand, sea and heat will do wonders for your skin and soul. Add to that the rhythmic flavor of Puerto Rican music and you’ll abandon the idea of ever coming home in exchange for camping out under the Caribbean stars for life. So imagine just how fantastic you could feel if you turn this already amazing vacation into a complete detox for your body, inside and out!
Many of the national dishes and street food served in Puerto Rico are on the heavy side to say the least. Lechón (roasted pig), tostones (fried plantain), mofongo, fried green plantains mashed with garlic and deep-fried pork skin) are some of the most traditional dishes. Mallorcas (sweet pastries) are Puerto Rico’s way of turning breakfast or afternoon coffee time into a rich, sugar-pumped adventure you’re unlikely to forget. But if you look a little closer, there are a number of healthy options available to you as you dine your way through the Puerto Rican trip of a lifetime.
Historical Influences on Puerto Rican Cuisine
Puerto Rican cuisine borrows from Spanish and other Latin American countries, as well as being greatly influenced by the Taino Arawak, African and American cultures. This is one of the reasons why so many indigenous seasonings, including sazon and paprika, are incorporated into many of its local dishes. An interesting read is the island’s first ever cookbook, published in 1849 and duly titled, El Cocinero Puertorriqueño.
Fruits and Vegetables
When it comes to peppers, Puerto Rican cuisine makes use of them all. Sweet, mild or moderately hot, most meals – stewed, grilled or raw – are put together using a pepper of some kind. An excellent food for fighting against inflammation, the pepper isn’t just a tasty accompaniment to your meal, but one that can help reduce internal inflammation and relieve your body of unnecessary stress.
Two Puerto Rican fruity favorites that you really must try are the mamey and the orangelo, a clever combination of the orange and the pomelo or grapefruit. Interestingly, the mamey came close to extinction before finding renewed popularity with the immigrant Cubans and Dominicans living in Puerto Rico. Both the mamey and the orangelo are used to make refreshing Puerto Rican fruit juices and ice-creams and are filled to the brim with vitamin C.
Healthy Animal Proteins
Even though pork is the most popular meat on the island, chicken comes in at a very close second. One of the leanest animal proteins on the planet, chicken is certainly one of the foods you can enjoy guilt free if looking to treat your body kindly while in Puerto Rico. A really tasty dish prepared all over the island is the One Pot Puerto Rican Chicken and Rice. This incredible dish, perfect for both lunch and dinner, is interestingly flavored with sofrito sauce, spices, peas and olives.
If you enjoy seafood, try the spiny lobster, known locally as langosta. Unlike most other fish and seafood on the island, the spiny lobster is caught in the surrounding waters and reserved for national use only. A rich source of copper and selenium, spiny lobster is a natural antioxidant and can help clear your body of the dangerous effects of free-radicals. A win-win situation, to say the least!
Beans and Pulses
Vegetarians will have little difficulty finding something tasty to eat, as Puerto Ricans love dining on beans and pulses. Black beans, white beans, chickpeas, green beans, red kidney beans, pinto beans and pink beans (Puerto Rico’s most common bean) are just some of the tasty ingredients waiting to receive you on the island. Usually served with rice and a side portion of tostones, most bean dishes are high in dietary fiber and therefore help you lose weight, live longer and keep your digestive system working properly.
So, is it possible to go healthy while vacationing in Puerto Rico? We certainly think so. You might not be able to take full advantage of the most traditional dishes night after night, but that doesn’t mean you won’t be leaving the island with a real taste for local seasoning and a history of Spanish and African flavors bouncing around on the tip of your tongue.
This article was written by Crew Member Jackie from the Crew of Caribbean Trading Company.
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