Known for being one of the healthiest diets in the world, the Mediterranean diet has been around for thousands of years and is based on the traditional eating habits of those bordering the Mediterranean sea. This diet is rich in whole, minimally-processed foods such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds, as well as healthy fats like olive oil and fatty fish. Generally speaking, the high amounts of fiber, healthy fats, and antioxidants are one of the key benefits of the Mediterranean diet. In fact, this largely contributes to its science-backed ability to boost longevity and reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. The nutrient-rich Mediterranean diet has even been shown to improve brain function, reduce inflammation, and support healthy aging!
And one of the best parts about this diet is that it’s really not a diet at all — it’s a healthy lifestyle. Unlike other diets, the Mediterranean diet isn’t about deprivation or strict rules — it’s about enjoying delicious and nutritious whole foods in moderation, while also incorporating healthy habits into your day-to-day life. Our lifestyle plays a role in this diet? Yep, with the Mediterranean diet, it’s not just about what you eat, but also about how you eat or who you share your plate with!
The diet emphasizes the importance of enjoying meals with family and friends, savoring your food, and taking time to enjoy the flavors and textures of your meal. For many, red wine is even consumed in moderation as part of the Mediterranean diet.
With all these benefits, we bet you’re hungry to learn more! And good news — we’re sharing the healthiest foods to eat on a Mediterranean diet and all the tasty ways to enjoy them.
The 14 Best Foods to Eat on the Mediterranean Diet for Optimal Health
The Mediterranean diet emphasizes the consumption of colorful low-sugar berries, as they are rich in vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants. Not only do berries like strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries contain rich levels of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties, making them an excellent addition to the Mediterranean diet.
Add them to smoothies or yogurt bowls, enjoy fresh berries as a healthy snack with a handful of nuts, or try enjoying them in this FitOn Berry Breakfast Omelet for a protein-packed morning meal.
- 3 eggs
- ½ cup mixed berries
- 1 tbsp shredded coconut
- 2 tbsp Greek yogurt
- 1 tsp coconut oil
- 1 tbsp hemp seeds
Step #1: Start by adding the eggs to a mixing bowl and whisk. Add the berries, 1 tablespoon of the yogurt, and shredded coconut and stir.
Step #2: Next, heat a skillet over medium heat with coconut oil and pour the egg mixture into the pan. Once the edges look cooked, flip the omelet. Cook for an additional 1-2 minutes.
Step #3: Serve the omelet on a plate with the other 1 tablespoon of the yogurt, extra berries, a sprinkle of shredded coconut, and hemp seeds.
Step #4: Enjoy!
Another low-sugar fruit often consumed on the Mediterranean diet is tomatoes! High in antioxidants like vitamin C and lycopene, tomatoes can help reduce inflammation and protect against oxidative stress, which is a key factor in aging and the development of chronic diseases. Plus, tomatoes have been shown to help support heart health.
Enjoyed fresh or roasted in salads, sauces, and soups, tomatoes are a versatile and delicious ingredient that can be enjoyed in many different ways!
For a light and healthy option, enjoy roasted tomatoes in this flavorful Caprese flatbread recipe! Made with antioxidant-rich cherry tomatoes, fresh basil, and a drizzle of balsamic over a crunchy base.
Make it your own with healthy swaps or add-ins! Use your own homemade tomato sauce, load up your dish with extra veggies, or swap the mozzarella for your favorite non-dairy cheese alternative.
- ½ cup cherry tomatoes, halved
- ½ cup fresh mozzarella, sliced
- ½ cup fresh basil leaves, chopped
- ½ tsp Italian seasoning
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 almond or coconut-based keto-friendly tortilla, wrap, or flatbread
To serve (optional)
- Balsamic glaze
- Ripe avocado, sliced
- Fresh basil leaves
Step #1: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Step #2: While the oven is heating, in a small bowl, mix the olive oil and garlic. Brush the flatbread with the garlic olive oil mixture, then place the flatbread on a baking sheet. Bake for 2-3 minutes.
Step #2: Remove the flatbread from the oven. Add the cherry tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, and a sprinkle basil (about ¼ cup).
Step #3: Bake for 5-10 minutes, until the tomatoes are soft and mozzarella is melted. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly, then top with the remaining basil. Sprinkle with a dash of sea salt and black pepper as desired. Then, top with optional balsamic glaze and any other toppings of choice, such as avocado or additional seasoning.
Whether you’re enjoying it mashed up in a bowl of guacamole, sliced on top of a Mediterranean-style salad, or blended into a refreshing smoothie, avocados are a versatile and nutritious ingredient that can do wonders for your health!
Their rich levels of heart-healthy mono and polyunsaturated fats have been shown to lower cholesterol levels, while their fiber content aids digestion. Plus, their vitamin E and healthy fat content can promote healthy skin and provide anti-inflammatory benefits! Really, what’s not to love?
Often used in Mediterranean dishes like guacamole or salads, they make a filling and satisfying addition to any meal.
#4 Dark Leafy Greens
Did you think we could talk about a healthy diet without mentioning leafy greens? Dark leafy greens like spinach, kale, and arugula are rich in vitamins A, C, and K, as well as nutrients like iron, calcium, and fiber. From improved heart health to reduced inflammation and improved digestion, they’re one of the healthiest foods to consume!
To enjoy them on a Mediterranean-style diet, here are some ideas:
- Use arugula or spinach as the base for your salad
- Sprinkle kale into a hearty bean and veggie soup
- Add a handful of spinach or chard to your favorite smoothie
- Saute bok choy or collard greens with garlic and olive oil for a quick and easy side dish that can be enjoyed with grilled fish or chicken
Artichokes are a tasty source of fiber, vitamins C and K, and antioxidants, and they can be used in Mediterranean dishes like artichoke dip or stuffed artichokes. While they may look intimidating with their spiky exterior, once you get past the outer layer, you’re in for a treat (in terms of taste and nutrition).
Add them to your salads or pasta dishes, enjoy them grilled or steamed with a drizzle of olive oil, or blend their cooked creamy center into a savory artichoke dip.
Low in calories and carbs, eggplant is a rich source of fiber and antioxidants, and can be used in Mediterranean dishes like moussaka, Baba ganoush, or Eggplant Parmesan. With the ability to absorb flavors from other ingredients, it makes the perfect ingredient to use in a variety of dishes — when roasted, eggplant becomes creamy and soft, while when grilled, it develops a crispy exterior with a tender interior.
Plus, it’s a great option for vegetarians and vegans! It provides a “meaty” texture, serving as the perfect meat alternative in dishes such as lasagna or eggplant parmesan.
#7 Greek Yogurt
Rich in protein, a good source of calcium, and full of gut-healthy probiotics, Greek yogurt is a staple in most Mediterranean diets. From tzatziki dipping sauce to smoothies to yogurt bowls topped with fruits and nuts, Greek yogurt can be used in a variety of Mediterranean dishes!
A low-carb veggie that’s rich in fiber, vitamin C, and potassium, zucchini is often used in many Mediterranean dishes, like ratatouille or stuffed zucchini. It makes the perfect noodle alternative in pasta dishes like spaghetti and lasagna, and tastes delicious when stuffed with lean protein, veggies, and legumes! With a mild flavor and texture, it pairs well with many dishes and adds a low-calorie (yet filling) addition to any dish.
As a mouth-watering source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids, salmon and other fatty fish such as sardines and tuna are key protein sources enjoyed on a Mediterranean-style diet. Salmon, in particular, is a flavorful fish known for its rich, buttery taste and tender texture, making it a fan favorite in many Mediterranean-style dishes. The omega-3 fatty acids found in salmon are beneficial for heart health, helping to lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart disease. Plus, salmon is high in vitamin D, which is important for bone health and immune function!
In Mediterranean-style diets, salmon is often served with roasted vegetables like asparagus or zucchini, in a fresh salad with mixed greens and olive oil, or on top of avocado toast!
#10 Olives & Olive Oil
Olive oil is the primary source of fat used in the Mediterranean diet — so much so that it’s often referred to as “liquid gold!”
Rich in monounsaturated fatty acids, antioxidants, and anti-inflammatory properties, it can help keep your heart healthy (by reducing LDL cholesterol) and your brain sharp (thanks to the polyphenols that protect against cognitive decline).
Best of all, it’s delicious!
Drizzle olive oil over your favorite veggies, use it as the base for homemade salad dressing pesto, or dips, or brush it on your favorite protein before grilling or roasting.
Legumes like chickpeas, lentils, fava beans, and black beans are nutrient-rich healthy legumes that are often found in a Mediterranean diet. With health benefits such as improved digestion, better weight management, and reduced risk of chronic diseases like heart disease and diabetes, it’s no wonder these small but mighty foods fill many Mediterranean-style plates!
Here are some ways to enjoy them in Mediterranean dishes:
- Full of plant protein, fiber, and folate, use chickpeas to make homemade hummus or falafels
- Rich in protein and fiber, lentils are often used in soups, salads, and as a meat alternative in vegan and vegetarian dishes
- Stuffed into peppers or used in black bean and corn salad, black beans are a good source of plant protein, fiber, iron, and magnesium
#12 Herbs & Spices
You won’t find processed additives and artificial sweeteners in Mediterranean-inspired plates! Instead, the Mediterranean diet uses nutrient-rich herbs and spices like basil, oregano, thyme, rosemary, garlic, and ginger to add flavor and antioxidants to meals.
#13 Nuts & Seeds
Nuts and seeds — like almonds, walnuts, and flax seeds — are heart-healthy staples of the Mediterranean diet and are a great source of healthy fats, protein, and fiber. Not to mention, they provide a wide range of vitamins and minerals, such as Omega-3s, antioxidants, vitamin E, and magnesium.
Some of the most common nuts and seeds enjoyed on a Mediterranean diet include:
- Pine nuts
- Chia seeds
- Flax seeds
- Pumpkin seeds
- Hemp seeds
- Sesame seeds
- Sunflower seeds
#14 Whole Grains
Whole grains such as barley, quinoa, and brown rice are fiber, and protein-rich carbs often consumed on the Mediterranean diet. Unlike refined and processed grains that spike blood sugar and are devoid of nutrients, whole grains offer many health benefits. For this reason, these complex carbs are found in many Mediterranean-inspired dishes and recipes, such as risotto, quinoa salads, stuffed pepper dishes, and tabbouleh!
Mediterranean Diet Motivated? Us Too!
Renowned for its focus on fresh, whole foods that are both delicious and nutritious, there are so many good-for-you foods to enjoy on the Mediterranean diet. From fatty fish to savory veggies to creamy nuts and seeds, the Mediterranean diet offers a wide range of healthy and delicious options. Some of the healthiest foods on this diet include leafy greens like spinach and kale, protein and omega-rich foods like fatty fish, and fiber-filled legumes such as chickpeas and lentils. Healthy fats like olive oil and nuts are also key components of the Mediterranean diet. By focusing on fresh, whole foods and incorporating a variety of flavors and textures, this diet provides the body with the nutrients it needs to live a healthy life!