The Mediterranean diet has been getting a lot of praise recently. While it was voted the best diet at the beginning of last year, its popularity shows no sign of slowing down. Even if you don’t know much about it, you may know that things like vegetables, fruits, olive oil, and fish make up a large component of the diet. What about fish, exactly, makes it so important, though? There’s a simple reason why the Mediterranean diet places a strong emphasis on fish as a source of protein rather than meats like chicken and beef. Here’s why:
Omega-3 Fatty Acids Are Why Fish is a Key Component of the Mediterranean Diet
Fish such as salmon, tuna, mackerel, and sardines are a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids. This healthy fat is just one of many that make up a major part of the Mediterranean diet, as consuming them instead of less healthy fats such as saturated and trans fats contribute to better heart-health, which is a focus of the diet.
Omega-3 fatty acids are found in a handful of foods, such as walnuts, soybeans, eggs, and even some vegetables like spinach and Brussels sprouts, but their highest levels are found in fatty fish. They’re responsible for a number of things: They’ve been shown to support heart health, aid in weight management, and even help with anxiety.
Read more: 5 Foods That May Help Your Anxiety
Other meat sources of protein, such as chicken and beef, don’t contain this healthy fat and can contain high levels of saturated fat, so the Mediterranean diet does not place emphasis on them, though it still allows you to consume them in moderation. Instead, it recommends eating omega-3-rich fish at least twice a week. Shellfish, such as clams, oysters, and mussels, are also good sources.
One important thing to note is that while the Meditarranean diet places emphasis on eating more fish, it’s not talking about fish that’s battered and fried. Fried food, no matter what it is, contains a fair amount of less healthy fats, negating the good fats fish has. Instead, opt for baked, broiled, grilled, or pan-seared fish, cooked with heart-healthy olive oil to get all of its great benefits.
5 Great Mediterranean Diet Fish Recipes to Try
- Pan-Seared Salmon with Spinach from Julia’s Album
- Mediterranean Tuna Steaks from How to Feed a Loon
- Grilled Mackerel with Sicilian Caper-Tomato Salsa from Food & Wine Magazine
- Steamed Mussels with White Wine and Garlic from Jessica Galvin
- Mediterranean Seafood Stew from Rachael Ray Every Day
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