The Mediterranean diet is a popular eating style emphasizing the cuisine of the countries such as France, Spain and Italy, which have much lower rates of heart disease and cancer than the rest of the Western world. With delicious pastas, tomato sauces and savory olive oil on the Mediterranean menu, there's good reason to add Mediterranean foods, especially vegetables, to your meals.
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No Mediterranean-inspired meal is complete without tomatoes. Though actually a New World fruit, brought to Europe by Spanish explorers such as Christopher Columbus, tomatoes grow well in the mild climates of the Mediterranean and have been an important part of its cuisine for hundreds of years. Tomatoes contain vitamin C, vision-boosting lycopene and fiber. When fresh tomatoes aren't in season, chef and Food Network star Alton Brown recommends using canned diced tomatoes, which are picked at the peak of ripeness and flash-steamed, giving them a full tomato flavor.
Zucchini is a traditional part of the cuisine of the Vento region of Italy, which is the area around Venice, one of the most important cities of Mediterranean Europe. Also a popular garden plant in the United States, zucchini offers fiber, potassium and vitamin A . Zucchini is good as a soup base, gives satisfying depth to tomato-based pasta sauces and takes well to grilling. If you choose to grill it, brush slices with a little oil and place them on clean, hot grill grates to prevent he zucchini from sticking.
Grown all over the Mediterranean, and a traditional ingredient in the cuisines of Italy and Spain, olives are rich in heart-healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. However, since they are high in calories, go for small amounts of high-quality olives. Larger supermarkets and health food stores carry high-quality bottled olives, but you can also find good olives in one of the many olive bars popping up in produce departments. Salty brine or salt-cured olives are good on thin-crust pizza or pasta, while milder olives make good additions to soups and stews.
Eggplant is easy to grow and easy to cook with, and it is long valued by gardeners and farmers from the Calabria region of Italy. Its dark-purple color indicates the presence of powerful disease-fighting antioxidants which neutralize damaging free-radicals and help prevent cancer. Because most of the nutrients are in the skin, don't peel it. Instead, look for smaller pods, which have thinner skins, scrub them well, and slice the eggplant. Use it in vegetable lasagnas or ratatouille Or grill the pods, deseed them, and process them in a food processor to make baba ganoush.