8 Mediterranean Diet Staples You Need in Your Pantry
If you are looking for a simple, delicious way to improve your diet and lead a healthier life, consider switching to a Mediterranean diet. The Mediterranean plan is all about eating like the Romans ate. Think: plant-based with plenty of “good” fats and lots of seafood. Practitioners of this diet may enjoy benefits like a lower risk of heart disease, reduced blood sugar and weight loss. On top of that, the Mediterranean diet is undeniably delicious.
To get started, make sure you have everything you need to cook the Mediterranean way. Here are some of the most essential Mediterranean diet staples you need in the pantry. Be sure to add plenty of fresh veggies and seafood for a well-rounded assortment.
1. Olive Oil — Olive oil is fundamental to the Mediterranean diet because it is packed with monounsaturated fats (MUFAs), otherwise known as good fats. Because they have the unique ability to lower cholesterol, MUFAs like the ones found in olive oil may help lower your risk of heart disease. Be sure to integrate a high-quality olive oil (extra-virgin is best) into your diet to help arm the body with the tools it needs to thrive well into old age. While you can and should eat olive oil raw, do not be swayed by myths about the liquid losing its nutrient density when heated up. It is an essential for sautéing fresh veggies and can help add flavor and crispness when roasting.
2. Olives — For the same reasons mentioned above, you should always have some olives on hand in the pantry for snacking and adorning salads or charcuterie platters. Olives are not only rich in healthy fats that could improve heart health, but they are also packed with antioxidants, iron and vitamin A.
3. Balsamic Vinegar — There is no denying that a good balsamic vinegar is crucial to Mediterranean cooking. It is a staple in sauces, dressings, drizzles and dips and can help you pull together a perfectly marinated seafood or a well-dressed salad that fills you up and makes you feel good. Try one of our flavored vinegars to add an extra punch to whatever you are cooking!
4. Nuts — Nuts, like olives, are a good source of healthy fats that your body can use to fight off heart disease, stroke and diabetes. In addition, nuts are an excellent source of protein, fiber, vitamin E and magnesium, so they are an easy way to bulk up your nutrient intake. Whether you use them for snacking or eat them as a spread, nuts are the Mediterranean dieter’s best friend.
5. Tomatoes — Naturally, since they are a great source of nutrients and can help brighten up many dishes, tomatoes are an excellent addition to your Mediterranean diet plan. We recommend having a wide variety of fresh and canned tomatoes on hand so you can make all sorts of sauces, salads, sandwiches, dips and more. Combine a little olive oil and vinegar and give some fresh summer tomatoes a sweet drizzle for a healthy side or snack.
6. Herbs — Whether fresh or dried, herbs are the Mediterranean chef’s secret weapon for dressing up dull and uninspired dishes. Though they may not be massive sources of nutrients, they are perfect for dressing up meats, veggies, sauces and more.
7. Fish — Since ancient and modern practitioners alike sourced much of their protein from the Mediterranean, seafood of all sorts is a hugely important part of this diet. Fish is jam-packed with healthy fats and nutrients, namely omega-3 fatty acids as well as vitamin D, vitamin B2, iron, zinc, magnesium and potassium. Fish is an excellent way to support your heart health and it can even boost brain function and reduce inflammation. While fresh, wild-caught fish is ideal, stock the pantry with staples like canned tuna, sardines and mackerel for an easy addition to salads, cheese plates, pizza and more.
8. Beans — Beans are one of this diet’s true superfoods. Not only are they rich in vitamins and minerals, but they are also one of the best and most shelf-stable sources of fiber and protein. Because of this, canned beans are a simple way to bulk up your diet and create dishes that are hearty, filling and good for you.
Go for Quality
If you plan to adopt a Mediterranean diet, you will no doubt reap many benefits. Make sure to go for high-quality ingredients wherever possible, whether you are stocking your pantry with olive oil, vinegar or canned goods. In many cases, higher quality ingredients are healthier than their cheap counterparts (this is certainly the case with olive oil), but they are extra-beneficial because they help you get excited about cooking.