Mediterranean diet, often claimed to be one of the healthiest, includes a liberal mix of olive oil, fresh fruits and vegetables, protein-rich legumes, fish and whole grains with moderate amounts of red meat. Among the health benefits for people choosing a Mediterranean diet are the less likelihood of developing high blood pressure, high cholesterol or becoming obese.
Broccoli: Like other members of the cabbage family, broccoli provides plenty of vitamin C, potassium, calcium and fiber as well as carotenoids and cancer-fighting ingredients.
Chickpeas: Combined with grains and starches, chickpeas provide high-quality protein along with folate, calcium, iron and zinc. They also offer benefits like healthy, filling doses of soluble and insoluble fiber. Studies suggest they may even help manage diabetes, prevent colon cancer and reduce heart disease risk.
Eggplant: Giving a meaty satisfaction to a cuisine, eggplants contain fiber and potassium, as well as chlorogenic acid, a compound concentrated in eggplant skin, which is reported to have antiviral and cancer-fighting properties.
Hazelnuts: Loaded with heart-friendly monounsaturated fat, hazelnuts are also rich sources of protein, fiber, vitamin E, folate, calcium and magnesium. The protein found in hazelnut is also high in arginine, an amino acid that helps maintain healthy blood vessels.
Olive Oil: Olive oil is imperative in Mediterranean cooking, especially when it comes to preparing vegetables. Rich in monounsaturated fat and, in extra-virgin types, antioxidant polyphenols, many believe its wide use throughout the Mediterranean explains much of that region’s low heart disease rates.
Seafood: Seafood is a staple protein in Mediterranean diets; any and all kinds of shellfish and fish are celebrated, often several in the same dish. While fattier types like tuna supply heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, lean specimens like shrimp, squid and sea bass provide ample protein, niacin and selenium.
Tomatoes: Present in every Mediterranean cook’s larder, tomatoes are packed with vitamin C and lycopene, a heart-protective antioxidant that may also help prevent some cancers. Plus they’re versatile enough to enjoy every day.
Couscous: Traditionally unrefined grains (pasta, bread, barley, couscous) are the base of most Mediterranean diets. Unrefined grains lower the glycemic index, so they are digested more slowly and produce gentler rises in glucose and insulin than refined versions. They also retain all their fiber, magnesium, vitamin E and other antioxidant phytochemicals. Diets rich in whole grains may protect against heart disease, diabetes and other chronic diseases.