The Middle Eastern diet falls under the category of a Mediterranean diet, which incorporates the foods and cuisines of the countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea. The Mediterranean diet has garnered praise for its role in keeping the body healthy and staving off chronic disease, especially cardiovascular problems.
Both a Middle Eastern and Mediterranean diet emphasize the use of olive oil, fish, whole grains, fruits, vegetables and legumes as primary foods. If you follow this type of diet, you eat red meat, dairy and sweets sparingly. Since saturated fat and cholesterol are only found in animal-based foods, this kind of diet is very low in both. Instead, heart-healthy fats, like the monounsaturated and omega-3 fatty acids provided by olive oil and fish, are the primary sources of fats. On this diet, you obtain protein from legumes and fish instead of red meat or poultry.
You won’t find a lot of fat like butter and lard in Middle Eastern cooking or food preparation. Many recipes use only olive oil, and in very small quantities. Very few dishes are fried, also. You will find many foods are grilled and baked.
The biggest benefit to the Middle Eastern diet is its effects on your heart. The reduction in meat and animal products leads to a less consumption of saturated fats.
The traditional cooking method used in the Middle-East involves grilling and baking meats and vegetables. For instance, the popular Middle-Eastern food, shawarma, involves cooking meat on a spit with healthy and flavourful seasonings. This method takes more time, but allows the meat to tenderize and creates a perfect harmony of flavours.
Middle Eastern food is a natural choice for vegetarians. Veggie kebabs and dolma, appetizers like baba ganoush, and meatless soups and stews give vegetarians so many options. Middle Eastern salads, like tabbouleh are served with many types of veggies and spices.
Vegetarian options are also a strong component of Middle-Eastern food. Although the protein in grilled meats is good for you, those who prefer meat-free options can still find healthy and delicious plates. Things like hummus and falafel are vegetarian and are made using protein rich ingredients such as chick peas.
There are many benefits to eating Middle Eastern food. You just have to take the leap, open your mouth and your sense, and taste your way through tradition and history to what is called Middle Eastern cuisine.