The Top 5 Mediterranean Vegetables

Although adding more vegetables in general to your diet is inherently more Mediterranean, certain vegetables stand out as key components of a Mediterranean diet. Here are the top five Mediterranean veggies:

1

The artichoke plant, or globe artichoke, is native to the Mediterranean region and cultivated primarily in countries like France, Italy, Spain, and Morocco.

Although only a small portion of the artichoke is eaten, it ranks number one in antioxidants compared to any other vegetable, according to the USDA. Also, if you eat all the edible parts of a medium-sized artichoke, you get about 10 grams of fiber (about one-third of your daily needs) and a good dose of vitamin C in just 64 calories.

2

Eggplant contains only about 20 calories per cooked cup, 2.5 grams of fiber, and anthocyanins, the antioxidants that give eggplant its purple hue.

Not only do these antioxidants have heart health and cancer fighting properties, but preliminary research in rats published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry in 2010 also found that anthocyanins may offer protection against obesity and diabetes.

The entire eggplant, including purple skin and white flesh, is edible and tastes best when cooked (the raw fruit has a bitter taste). Eggplant tends to soak up a lot of oil in dishes, so be extra aware of your portions, especially when you’re dining out and can’t control how much olive oil is added to the dish.

Just because it’s a vegetable doesn’t mean the eggplant can’t be the main show. Due to its fleshy skin, eggplant can act as a meat substitute and is the star of many Mediterranean dishes.

3

The Mediterranean people consume copious amounts of onions and garlic.

If you equate dark, vibrant fruit and vegetable colors with healthy properties, you may mistakenly think that onions (especially white onions) are devoid of nutrition. But much research has been conducted on the allium family — onions, garlic, scallions — and the antioxidants or allyl sulfides they contain may be one reason for lower cancer rates among people who consume large quantities of these veggies.

Although they may not be great for your breath, onions also have antibacterial properties that help you fight infections, compounds to help lower blood pressure, and chromium, a mineral that may be helpful in keeping your blood glucose in check.

4

How sweet it is to get a dose of fiber, potassium, vitamin A, and vitamin C in something as delicious as a sweet potato!

You may be familiar with sweet potatoes — made into sweet potato fries, mashed at Thanksgiving (yams are actually a different veggie altogether), or baked with a pat of butter.

Any way you eat white potatoes, you can substitute sweet potatoes, which offer a better nutrient profile. But remember this tip: Don’t peel your potatoes! A lot of the nutrition, including the belly-filling and heart-disease–fighting fiber, is found in the skin. Also, pair sweet potatoes with a source of fat, like drizzled olive oil or chopped nuts, to help your body absorb the beta-carotene.

5

Iin the Mediterranean countries, zucchini is used in a variety of dishes, like zucchini bread, zucchini pancakes, dips and spreads, and toppings for salads and sandwiches.

Zucca is the Italian word for squash, and zucchini, a type of summer squash, was developed and is still heavily used in Italian cuisine. Zucchini contains fiber and many vitamins inherent in other veggies but is also a good source of manganese. This mineral is helpful for energy metabolism, breaking down and helping your body use carbohydrates and protein.

 
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