Mediterranean cuisine is not only one of the most flavorful diets in the world, but—thanks to a wealth of delicious, fresh ingredients—it's also one of the healthiest. Make sure you include some of these staples in your own diet.
Bright red tomatoes get their color from an antioxidant called lycopene. Research has linked diets
abundant in tomatoes to lower cancer rates. Refrigeration diminishes their flavor, so store fresh tomatoes at room temperature.
Research shows drinking moderate amounts of alcohol (such as red or white wine) with a meal can help lower your risk of developing heart disease and diabetes.
3. LEAFY GREEN
Arugula, mustard greens, and other leafy greens are great sources of fiber and antioxidant vitamins, such as beta-carotene and vitamin C. Mediterranean cuisines feature leafy greens in many ways, from simple salads to the quintessential Greek spinach pie spanakopita.
Whole-wheat pasta has a lower glycemic index (or GI) than "white" pasta. This is key for anyone at risk of diabetes, since low GI foods keep blood-sugar levels from spiking. With either pasta, including vegetables and unsaturated fats (like olive oil) also lowers a meal's GI.
Most Mediterranean cuisines serve fruit for dessert, from figs stuffed with mascarpone to strawberries and mangoes in sweet wine. Low in calories, fruit is high in fiber, vitamins A and C, and essential minerals such as potassium and magnesium.
A source of lean protein, fish is also plentiful in omega-3s. These fats protect against abnormal heart rhythms and reduce inflammation, which may help runners recover faster. Fish that are rich in omega-3s include salmon, mackerel, herring, tuna, sardines, and lake trout.
Whether dried or canned, beans provide a generous amount of fiber and plant-based protein, making them a healthy alternative to meat in everything from soups to casseroles. The classic Italian dish pasta fagioli combines beans and pomodoro sauce.
In addition to abundant fiber and antioxidant vitamins, broccoli and its cruciferous cousins—including cabbage, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts—contain cancer-fighting substances called isothiocyanates.
Try these delicious and nutritious recipes from runner, chef and NY Times writer Mark Bittman.
9. SWEET PEPPERS
Red, yellow, green, and even chocolate-colored, sweet peppers add a painter's palette of colors to meals—along with a healthy dose of vitamins A and C. Roasting or grilling intensifies their flavor and gives them a creamy texture.
Garlic helps keep total cholesterol and blood pressure down. Different varieties taste different, so experiment to find ones you like. Store garlic away from heat and sunlight to prevent it from sprouting.