The Israeli Mediterranean Diet is good for both the body and soul, so here’s 10 Reasons to Eat Israeli
The wide variety of delicious and healthy food is just one of the 10 Reasons to Eat Israeli this summer.
- Israeli Mediterranean Diet
The Israeli Mediterranean Diet is known as the Worlds’ Healthiest Diet and for good reason – scientists have proven in two recent studies that Israel has the lowest rate of diet-related death and that it reduces liver fat along with common health risks associated with obesity and NAFLD, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
The Israeli Mediterranean Diet differentiates itself from other Mediterranean diets as it is, on average, lower in fat that the Spanish diet and higher in fat than the Italian diet. This balance is complemented by its “Western” influence of dairy, eggs and meat. Thanks to copious amounts of fresh fruits, veggies, legumes and grains, it is full of antioxidants.
Further, each Israeli meal typically consists of salads. Tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers are abundant while natural antioxidant-rich nuts like walnuts and almonds grow in the Jewish State. Aside from meals being rich in veggies, popular dips such as tahini (sesame) and Hummus (chickpeas) are eaten in place of common unhealthy fast food or take-out snacks.
- Sheva Minim – The Biblical Diet Plan
The Sheva Minim are the seven special agricultural products listed in the Bible as belonging to the Land of Israel. Known as the “seven species,” they include five fruits – grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives and dates, and two grains – wheat and barley.
Continuing the theme of antioxidant-rich foods, these seasonal treats are found in shuks (markets) all around Israel and arrive straight from the farm. Diets rich in olive oil and honey promote much better health, ward of common dietary health hazards.
These fruits were held in such high regard that only their first fruits were permissible to be used for offerings in the Holy Temple of Jerusalem. The two grains are celebrated with their own holidays – Shavuot celebrates the barley harvest while Sukkot coincides with the harvest of wheat.
In-Depth: Sheva Minim (Seven Species)
Barley is one of two grains in the Sheva Minim. It is a hardy cereal used not only for brewing alcohol and in stockfeed for animals, but for bread, pudding, porridge, soups and more.
Wheat is the other grain listed in the Sheva Minim. Used in a wide variety of ways, wheat has extraordinary health benefits. These include reducing chronic inflammation, lower the risk of type 2 diabetes and obesity, lowers the risk of stroke and heart disease, along with being high in fiber and supporting healthy digestion.
Grapes are eaten fresh off the vine or dried. In Israel, we use grapes heavily in the production of wine. Yes, there are very strict rules for producing Kosher wine, but we will leave that for another post.
Figs have been cultivated for thousands of years in the Land of Israel. Written about extensively in the Bible, they are eaten fresh, dried and in delicious cakes. The remedy for any sweet tooth.
Pomegranates are perhaps our favorite fruit of the Sheva Minim. They are said to contain 613 seeds (the same number of Mitzvot (loosely – good deeds) in the Torah) and are good for fertility. Further symbolism can be found in the clothes of the High Priest of the Holy Temple of Jerusalem, on the pillars of the Temple itself and on ancient coins. As they ripen in the early fall, we usually tuck into these royal “rimonim” on Rosh HaShanah.
Pomegranates can be eaten fresh or sun-dried and are used to make very sweet juice and wine. Pomegranate wine on a hot summers’ day is a treat. Nowadays, we eat pomegranate to guard against cancer, boost immunity, reduce chronic inflammation, treat hot flashes and hemorrhoids and more.
Olives play a massive role in the Israeli Mediterranean Diet. Olive oil is used for cooking and on top of food, and its heavy use plays a huge part in the health benefits of this diet. Olives are used in salads and in all sorts of dishes. Symbolically, olive oil was used for sacrificial offerings, ointment, lighting and for priestly office. Further, we celebrate the miracle of the small amount of oil lasting eight nights on Chanukah.
Dates when eaten fresh (like – fresh fresh) are absolutely delicious and incredibly healthy. While dried dates are easy to transport and can last for weeks, a common usage for this fruit is to boil it into a thick syrup referred to as “date honey” or Silan.
Without going into to much detail, “The Land of Milk and Honey” may actually refer to date honey vs. the traditional bee honey that people commonly eat nowadays. This is because according to science honey bees were extinct in the land around this time period. There is quite a bit of conjecture on this topic, as excavations from the Tel Rehov archaeological site show beekeeping was present and practiced in the land 3,000 years ago (during the era of King David). In the Torah, Samson (of long hair and super-strength fame) took honey from a bee hive that he found in the carcass of a lion.
- Revolutionizing Children’s Health and Bamba
There is nothing more important than your child’s health and we are still learning about all the massive health benefits that the Israeli Mediterranean Diet has to offer. From a diet rich in antioxidants which combats heart disease, cancer and other diseases, to fresh fruits and veggies which help prevent diabetes, obesity and NAFLD, its benefits are apparent. Recently, the very low-occurrence rate of deadly peanut allergies in Israeli children have baffled scientists but they have finally found the reason – eating Bamba, the Israeli peanut snack that children begin to eat at very young age. This snack has been proven to help the body develop an immunity to the deadly allergy.
- Communal Eating
Did you know that being social can add years to your life, increase happiness and decrease pain, reduce the risk of stroke and boost your immune system? It’s a good thing then that a large part of Israeli culture is based on communal eating. Whether it’s the weekly Friday night Shabbat dinner with the family, morning brunch with friends, coffee breaks or lunch with your colleagues, Israeli society is based around eating. Even on our holidays, including the ones we fast on, we still open and close the holidays with large meals.
- A Glass of Wine a Day…
Grapes are intrinsic to historic and modern Israeli/Jewish culture. As part of the Sheva Minim, this special fruit is used symbolically in religious custom and drank socially in moderate amounts for its massive health benefits. A glass of antioxidant-rich red wine a day has been proven to prevent cardiovascular disease, increase longevity and greatly reduce the risks of some forms of cancer. Red wine contains more of the antioxidant resveratrol compared to white wine. L’Chaim!
- Big Breakfasts and Brunch Culture
Whether it’s a weekday or a weekend, Israeli cafes are packed with friends and family meeting up for a big breakfast or brunch. A table full of the traditional Israeli salads we know and love, along with cheeses, tomato-heavy dishes like shakshuka and fresh veggies are aplenty. These healthy meetups are good for the body and soul.
Fresh juice and Turkish Coffee (or Café HaFuch – Israeli take on cappuccino) are usually served in the meal along with fresh fish like tuna or smoked salmon (lox), olives and breads. The science has spoken as well – eating more in the morning versus eating more in the evening can help suppresses blood-sugar spikes and help diabetics avoid insulin resistance.
- Diversity of Diet
The Israeli Mediterranean Diet incorporates foods from all of the regions that Israel’s Jews hail from. From native Israel dishes to exotic spices like Baharat, from spicy Chraime fish from North Africa to soups from Eastern Europe, Israelis eat it all and in abundance. Fresh and natural ingredients rich in vitamins and nutrients are a great way to eat healthy and never get bored doing it.
- Hummus, Tahini, Falafel, Pita, Chickpeas, Olive Oil…
Almost every meal in Israel contains one of the above items. Protein-rich chickpeas are the base for hummus and falafel. Sesame-seed based tahini is loaded with copper, magnesium, manganese, calcium, iron, zinc, dietary fiber and more. Antioxidant rich extra virgin olive oil… this is why Israel has the healthiest diet in the world.
- …and Tomatoes!
Tomatoes play a huge role in Israeli cuisine. Featured in every salad and the base for the popular morning dish shakshuka, tomatoes are chock full of antioxidants. Benefits from tomato-rich diets include great skin, lower blood pressure, prostate health, bone density and heart health. Tomatoes are such a big part of the Israeli agriculture scene that we’ve even developed the humble cherry tomato into what it is today – an export that’s long-lasting juicy veggie popular all around the world.
- Eating with the Seasons
With the rise of global markets, one of the few things we rarely think about in the USA or anywhere else in the world is eating with the seasons. In Israel, our holidays are based around the seasons and with it comes the traditional foods we make for those holidays. And eating seasonally isn’t just for the holidays either – researchers have proven that when you eat produce picked at peak ripeness it contains many more nutrients and has a greater flavor. Oh and if that wasn’t enough, local produce means less need for pesticides and other harmful chemicals.
And that’s 10 Reasons to Eat Israel! Eat Israeli and share your favorite food photos with us on our Facebook Page: Israeli Recipe.
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