The Mediterranean diet represents the traditional way of eating found in countries that border the Mediterranean Sea, such as Italy, Spain, France and Greece. This food plan is associated with health and longevity because it's rich in fresh vegetables, fruits and healthy oils; moderate in whole grains; and low in meat, cheese and refined foods. All vegetables are allowed, so choose a variety of colors when selecting your vegetables to ensure a wide range of flavors and health benefits.
Green vegetables, which are an important part of the Mediterranean diet, are linked to the prevention of heart disease and some cancers. They help maintain strong red blood cells, bones and teeth. Glutathione, an antioxidant found in green vegetables such as asparagus and spinach, helps strengthen your immune system. Some green vegetables, such as broccoli and cabbage, have a strong taste that comes from sulfur compounds that lower your cholesterol and boost immune system health. Leafy, dark-green vegetables contain folic acid, which protects against heart disease. Go green each day with vegetables such as artichokes, celery, parsley, kale, green peppers and zucchini.
Red vegetables, such as tomatoes, are staples of Mediterranean cuisine. They help promote proper memory function, maintain urinary tract health, protect your heart and lower the risk of some cancers. These colorful veggies also contain vitamin C and beta-carotene, an antioxidant that helps protect your body's cells from damage and promotes eye health. Lycopene, the pigment in red vegetables, helps protect against prostate and other cancers. Beets, kidney beans, red cabbage, red onions, red peppers, radishes and red-skinned potatoes are excellent Mediterranean diet choices.
Orange and Yellow
Your immune system gets a boost from orange and yellow vegetables. The orange-colored carotenoids, or pigments, found in these vegetables help protect your skin and eyes, lower cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of stroke. Yellow and orange vegetables, such as yellow peppers, orange peppers and corn, contain lutein and zeaxanthin, which are antioxidants that promote eye health. Include plenty of carrots, butternut squash, sweet potatoes, and other orange and yellow vegetables in your food plan.
Blue, Purple and Black
Blue, purple and black vegetable pigments are loaded with antioxidants that promote healthy aging and protect against disease. Anthocyanin flavonoids, pigments found in deeply colored vegetables, help protect against age-related memory loss. Add black beans, purple cabbage, purple-fleshed potatoes, purple asparagus, purple Belgian endive and eggplant to your Mediterranean diet dishes.
White, Tan and Brown
Although they lack vivid color, white, tan and brown veggies provide important health benefits. Many vegetables from this group contain folic acid, fiber, potassium, selenium, vitamin C and phytonutrients, which are chemical compounds that promote your body's overall health. Vegetables from the garlic and onion family contain allicin, a substance that helps destroy cancer cells. Eat plenty of vegetables such as cauliflower, chickpeas, garlic, onions, leeks, lentils, mushrooms, potatoes, black-eyed peas, great northern beans, pinto beans and turnips.
- Clinical Nutrition Services Department, University of Wisconsin: Mediterranean Diet - Food Guide
- Center for Spirituality & Healing and the Life Science Foundation, University of Minnesota: The Mediterranean Diet
- North Dakota State University Extension Service: What Color Is Your Food?
- MayoClinic.com: Mediterranean Diet: Choose This Heart-Healthy Diet Option
- Kansas State University Cooperative Extension Service: Color Me Healthy: Enjoying Fruits and Vegetables
- University of California, San Diego: Healthy Holiday Eating from UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center
- Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University: Cruciferous Vegetables
Karen Curinga has been writing published articles since 2003 and is the author of multiple books. Her articles have appeared in "UTHeath," "Catalyst" and more. Curinga is a freelance writer and certified coach/consultant who has worked with hundreds of clients. She received a Bachelor of Science in psychology.