The Mediterranean diet is a traditional lifestyle which has been practiced for thousands of years by people living along the coasts of the Mediterranean Sea, in particular Spain, Italy and Greece. Residents of this area enjoy one of the the longest average life expectancies on the planet.
To experience the numerous benefits of the Mediterranean lifestyle, try these eight essential Mediterranean diet foods:
Olive oil is a staple of the Mediterranean diet menu. Research suggests that the abundance of olive oil consumed throughout the Mediterranean may be attributed to the area's low rates of heart disease. Olives and olive oil are a great source of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats. Extra-virgin olive oil in particular is especially rich in antioxidants.
In the Mediterranean lifestyle, nuts such as hazelnuts, walnuts and almonds can be used in sauces, salads, or just as snacks. They are packed with essential fatty acids, such as Omega-3s, and contain high amounts of protein, fiber, vitamin E and calcium.
People of the Mediterranean region eat lots of dark, leafy greens. Greens in the cabbage family contain high levels of Vitamin C, calcium, potassium and fiber. These plants contain nutrients which help prevent cancer. Examples of dark, leafy greens include arugula, bok choy, brussels sprouts, collard greens, and broccoli rabe.
Mediterranean diet foods include large amounts of fish and shellfish. Dishes often include multiple types of seafood. Fish such as tuna and salmon supply essential Omega-3 fatty acids. Other seafood such as shrimp and sea bass are full of protein, niacin and selenium.
The Mediterranean diet includes many different types of peppers, eaten fresh, roasted, or dried in a variety of dishes. Peppers are high in vitamins A and C, fiber, beta carotene, and can protect against macular degeneration.
Unrefined whole grains such as pasta, bread, barley and couscous are the foundation of traditional Mediterranean lifestyle. Abundant amounts of whole grains in your diet helps protect against heart disease and diabetes. Whole grains have a lower glycemic index than their refined counterparts, helping to balance your blood-sugar. They also have much higher levels of fiber, vitamin E, and antioxidants.
Fresh, canned or dried, tomatoes are one of the most versatile Mediterranean diet foods. Tomatoes are used in soups, salads, sauces and more. Tomatoes contain high levels of vitamin C and lycopene. Lycopene is an antioxidant which has been shown to help prevent against cancer, particularly prostate cancer.
Beans are an important part of the Mediterranean diet lifestyle. They are eaten almost every day, along with greens or whole grains. Beans are considered to help prevent colon cancer and heart disease, and to help manage diabetes. Chickpeas and other beans are full of healthy protein, folate, calcium, iron and zinc. They are also great sources of fiber.
Not only do these eight essential Mediterranean diet foods provide numerous health benefits, they also take you on an exciting, delicious new path toward a long, healthy and exciting life, full of energy and peace.
Michael Locklear is a researcher and consultant with 30 years experience, studying health, nutrition, and human behavior. He has been president of the Global Peace Project since 1986, and he administrates the websites Natural Remedies for Depression and Quick Weight Loss Tips as part of the Global Peace Project educational outreach program.