Middle Eastern cuisine is considered one of the healthiest in the world. That’s because it is rich in lean proteins, healthy fats, grains and vegetables. Tradeling takes a look at some of the benefits and products that fuel a healthy lifestyle.
It’s Wholesome and Aromatic
A Middle Eastern diet has been long attributed to good health and helping to stave off chronic disease, especially cardiovascular conditions. Studies show that heart disease is less common in Mediterranean countries than elsewhere. That’s because it is less processed than a western diet. Instead it is a diet that primarily consists of olive oil, fish, fruit, grains and an abundance of vegetables and legumes, and animal fats are used sparing
It is often referred to as a Mediterranean diet as the food incorporates cuisine bordering the Mediterranean Sea.
So, why is it so healthy? It all comes down to the natural ingredients and the way the dishes are cooked or served.
Olive oil is the principal oil used in Middle Eastern dishes. It is rich in healthy mono-unsaturated fats which are known to lower cholesterol, loaded with antioxidants and has strong anti-inflammatory properties. It is also attributed to helping prevent strokes and protect against heart disease.
Mint, Lemon and garlic are typical flavours of Middle Eastern cuisine, bringing with them a wealth of health benefits. Mint is known to aid with digestion and if full of carotenes and vitamin C. Lemon, packed with potassium, is known to stave off infection. Garlic, also known to fight infection, is used in abundance, providing a source of vitamin B6, selenium and vitamin C. Studies show it can lower cholesterol levels and reduce blood pressure.
Well-known dishes like mujadara are long-time favourites. The simple lentil stew is often called poor-man’s stew because it is budget friendly. Dating back to the medieval times, it is known to aid digestion, boost immunity and control blood sugar. What’s more it is gluten free and packed with protein. In fact, protein primarily comes from legumes and fish instead of meat and poultry in a Middle Eastern diet. That’s not to say there is no meat, it is just used more sparingly than in other diets. Many dishes include fava beans or chickpeas, like foul medammas or hummus
Rustic meat dishes are often a good mix of meat and other ingredients. In Lebanon, for example, Kibbeh nayyeh, is made of raw minced lamb blended with burghul, spices and a pinch of salt.
Sugar and Spice and All Things Nice
Middle Eastern dishes are packed with spices and seeds with za’atar and cumin being among the firm favourites. Inherent to the region, za’atar has some impressive health benefits associated to it, ranging from contributing to an improved immune system, better skin, stronger bones, improved circulation, among others. It is also known to boost your mood. The magic ingredients include thyme, sumac, oregano and sesame seeds.
Sesame is also used in a tahini sauce, along with nut better. It often complements many Mediterranean dishes – both sweet and savoury. It’s considered a superfood and the health benefits are endless. Packed with omega 3, copper, zinc and selenium, it is a well-known immune booster. It is also a good source of protein, vitamin E and B vitamins.
And, not forgetting those with a sweet tooth. There are plenty of Middle Eastern desserts to whet your appetite. Umm Ali, is a classic Egyptian bread pudding made of hearty pastry cooked in milk, cream with dry fruit. It’s rich in protein, fibre and carbohydrates to boost energy. Baklava is a buttery filo pastry dish consisting of chopped nuts, soaked in syrup, honey, cinnamon and lemon. Knafeh is the Middle East’s version of cheesecake. Hailing from Lebanon, the traditional sweet is thought to date back to the 10-century. The flaky soft dough and soft cheese is topped with syrup and crushed pistachios.
With the health benefits of Middle Eastern appetizers and main courses in abundance, you can afford to give yourself a healthy treat every now and again!
Top 10 Middle Eastern dishes
- Grilled Halloumi
- Foul Meddamas
- Baba Ghanoush