The Mediterranean Diet has certain types food and portion sizes. If eaten for a number of years, it has been shown to reduce the risks of developing heart disease, cancer, high blood pressure (hypertension), type 2 diabetes, Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease. It is a diet rich in vegetables, fruit, peas and beans (legumes) and grains. It also contains moderate amounts of chicken and fish. The cooking from the region has little red meat and most fat is unsaturated and comes from olive oil and nuts.
Here are Health Fitness Revolution‘s favorite staple of the Mediterranean Diet are these:
- Peppers: They are used fresh, dried, roasted and ground into complex sauces and pastes, peppers add color to Mediterranean dishes. All types of peppers are rich in vitamins A and C, fiber, folate, beta carotene and vitamin K. Red peppers also deliver lycopene, as well as lutein and zeaxanthin—protective against eyesight degeneration.
- Tomatoes: are used fresh, canned and in paste form. They are so versatile that they can be enjoyed every day! Tomatoes are packed with vitamin C and lycopene, a heart-protective antioxidant that may also help prevent some cancers (particularly prostate).
- Olive Oil: You can’t have a Mediterranean dish without Olive oil! Prized since antiquity (original Olympic winners were awarded jugs of it), olive oil is imperative when it comes to preparing vegetables. It is rich in monounsaturated fat and antioxidant polyphenols. It also explains much of that region’s low heart disease rates.
- Seafood and Shrimp: Since the Mediterraneans live close to the sea, seafood is a staple protein in this diet. While fattier types of seafood like tuna supply heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, lean specimens like shrimp, squid and sea bass provide ample protein, niacin and selenium, which is great for hair, skin, and nails.
- Nuts: Nut trees are almost as common as olive trees in Italy. Nuts are savored as snacks, ground into sauces and sprinkled on salads. They’re loaded with heart-friendly monounsaturated fat. Nuts are also rich sources of protein, fiber, vitamin E, folate, calcium and magnesium. Nut protein is also high in arginine, an amino acid that helps maintain healthy blood vessels.
- Eggplant: In addition to featuring a host of vitamins and minerals, eggplant also contains important phytonutrients, many which have antioxidant activity, anti-viral, and cancer fighting properties. Phytonutrients contained in eggplant include phenolic compounds, such caffeic and chlorogenic acid, and flavonoids.
- Chickpeas: Hummus is a stable of Mediterranean diets, and a great snack to bring to work (we wrote about healthy work snacks here). Eaten daily, combined with grains and starches, beans provide high-quality protein along with folate,calcium, iron and zinc. They also offer benefits like healthy, filling doses of fiber (both soluble and insoluble), phytates and phytosterols; studies shows that beans may help manage diabetes, prevent colon cancer and reduce heart disease risk.
- Broccoli Rabe: Is very popular in Italian cooking as is part of the cabbage family. It’s a nutrition powerhouse, providing plenty of vitamin C, potassium, calcium and fiber as well as carotenoids and cancer-fighting indoles and isothiocyanates.