Spanish cuisine emphasizing raw ingredients from the region’s rugged landscape. Small plates with high quality ingredients are common, as is seafood and vegetables. While Iberico ham and manchego cheese are rich, Spain has many light and healthy options. We’ve assembled a list of 10 healthy Spanish foods, including both raw ingredients and finished dishes.
The little olive sits at the center of the Spanish culinary world. Whether you are eating raw olives or drizzling extra virgin olive oil over some crusty bread and veggies, you’re doing your body a favor. Olives contain monounsaturated fats that decrease risk of heart disease and boost HDL cholesterol. Olives also have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, meaning they can help prevent diseases and some forms of cancer.
If you find yourself sweating beneath a hot mid-day sun in Barcelona, duck in to a shaded cafe and order a bowl of gazpacho. This iconic Spanish soup is made from blended vegetables and served chilled. Like most Spanish dishes, there are as many variations of gazpacho as there are regions of Spain. But expect this light and refreshing snack to include some tomatoes, onion, garlic, and olive oil, in addition to other local veggies and spices.
In the pre-dawn darkness of the early morning hours, fleets of fishing vessels spread out along the Spanish coast in search of the day’s catch. Spain is a country composed with extensive and varied coastline. It is also master of a islands in the Mediterranean Sea and Atlantic Ocean. That means a lot of fish ends up on Spanish menus. One of the most popular is the Anchovy, a umami-bomb full of Omega-3 fatty acids, B vitamins, iron, and protein. While many anchovies come packed in salt, it can be rinsed off in water.
Tempranillo, Rioja, Garnacha… Spain boasts an impressive array of world-renowned wine varietals. They are often a bit spicy, with distinct red and dark fruit notes. While too much wine is definitely a bad thing, moderate amounts contribute to heart health. The combination of alcohol and grapes brings antioxidants which increase HDL cholesterol and lower LDL. Wine also helps you unwind, which decreases stress and the chance of the diseases that come with it.
This little legume is filling, full of fiber, and carries the flavor of spices. They’re also very inexpensive, which is why they are popular in rural dishes across Spain. 1 cup of lentils contains 63% of your daily requirement of soluble fiber. This helps regulate blood sugar, improves digestion, and facilitates weight loss. Lentils also contain nutrients important to heart health like magnesium and iron.
This Spanish ratatouille originates from La Mancha, the arid setting of Don Quixote. It is a stew that with the slightly sweet and roasted flavor of eggplants, acidity from tomatoes, freshness from squash and red peppers, and savoriness from onion. The veggie stew is brimming with antioxidants, fiber, and important vitamins. Eat it with some crusty bread and enjoy a delicious dinner!
Almonds are a heart-healthy snack found in a number of Spanish dishes and deserts. They are rich in the manganese, riboflavin, and copper your body needs to convert food into energy. They are also low on the glycemic index, which makes them a useful aid in maintaining health blood sugar levels. But their best attribute is that they are high in monounsaturated fats. That means that they are a heart-healthy alternative to animal fats if you need to reduce your cholesterol levels.
Sour citrus flavors compliment many Spanish dishes. The region of Valencia is filled with orange and lemon orchards that emit a fragrant smell of orange blossom throughout the year. Whether you are eating an orange whole or cooking it as part of a dish, you can take solace in the fact that you are eating well. Citrus limonoids are proven to fight numerous cancers. Oranges are also renowned for their high levels of vitamin C, which keeps your immune system working. Citrus fruits are also high in fiber and low in sugar, bringing intense flavor without the risk of diabetes.
The eight legged cephalopod is an exotic dish unfamiliar to most Americans. But a properly tenderized octopus tentacle at a Tapas bar will eliminate any hesitancy about the dish’s deliciousness. Octopus is high in healthy omega-3 polyunsaturated fats, which are essential to maintaining heart health. It is also low in fat and calories, while providing an impressive 30 grams of protein. It also contains a large amount of B vitamins. The one drawback is that is high in cholesterol, so adopt your diet accordingly if you plan to eat some octopus.
If you want a hearty vegetarian meal try one of Spain’s many bean salads or stews. The Iberian peninsula is home to a patchwork of different types of beans, including many types of chickpea, or garbanzo, beans. Whether you prefer the fleshy Castellano chickpea from southern Spain or the buttery Fuentesuco chickpea from Castile-Leon, you are opting for a food rich in fiber and minerals. Chickpeas are a great source of protein for vegetarians.