Why Is Olive Oil Healthy

In the realm of culinary oils, olive oil stands as a beacon of health and flavor. Understanding the key factors that contribute to a healthy olive oil empowers consumers to make informed choices that not only enhance their culinary experiences but also promote their well-being. From the quality of olives to the extraction process and storage conditions, each element plays a crucial role in unlocking the full potential of this liquid gold. By prioritizing quality and authenticity, we can truly savor the essence of a healthy olive oil

What Makes a Healthy Olive Oil?

With endless options in grocery store aisles, how can you find the healthiest olive oil? Consider these six factors to determine the best olive oil for your health.

This article is based on reporting that features expert sources.

U.S. News & World Report

Healthiest Olive Oil

 

Abstract bubbles in olive oil. Photographer: Angel Garcia/Bloomberg

GETTY IMAGES

 

Known for its light feel and fruity aroma, olive oil is widely favored in Mediterranean cooking. It’s also associated with many health benefits. Some studies suggest that daily consumption of virgin olive oil may lower cardiovascular mortality risks. And replacing butter with olive oil can contribute to overall mortality reduction.

Olive oil is also a staple of the Mediterranean diet, which has ranked as the healthiest diet for seven years in a row in U.S. News & World Report’s best diets rankings.

Despite its many benefits, finding the right olive oil for you can be tricky – especially when sorting through endless bottles and brands on grocery store shelves. There are labels such as extra-virgin, cold-pressed, refined and so-called extra-light tasting olive oil. You can find olive oil from California, Greece, Spain, France and elsewhere. In this guide, we’ll explain the different types and production methods of olive oil to help you find the healthiest olive oil on your next grocery trip.

 

Healthiest Olive Oil

“Olive oil has been associated with a variety of health benefits including lower risk of heart disease, cancer prevention, improved brain health and even weight management,” says Melanie Murphy Richter, a registered dietitian nutritionist based in Los Angeles.

Richter explains that the oil is high in healthy fats and vitamins, like vitamin E, which can fight disease and reduce inflammation. “Unfortunately,” she adds, “not all olive oils are created equal.”

The health and quality of olive oil can vary based on factors such as the type of olives used, the extraction process and the level of processing, says Lisa Jones, a registered dietitian based in Philadelphia.

To find the best olive oil to support your health, there are several factors to take into consideration.

 

What Makes a Healthy Olive Oil?

In moderation, all olive oils can be healthy additions to your diet. However, certain types of olive oils can contain more healthful properties, like antioxidants, and fewer unhealthy properties, like unnecessary additives, than others. Some components that can impact how healthy your olive oil is include:

 

 

Suppliers in many countries and localities produce healthy olive oil. However, some areas are better known for their olive oils than others. These can include areas along the Mediterranean, where olives are a native species and where people regularly consume olive oil (and follow the Mediterranean diet), Richer says. Certain areas of Europe that have “robust guidelines on safer and healthier food production,” Richter adds. These aren’t the only places that produce healthy options, so locally sourced oils or some of your favorite brands may be good options too, she says.

Often, you can verify where an olive oil is from by checking its labeling. For products from Europe, you may be able to look for acronyms such as PDO, which stands for Protected Designation of Origin, or PGI, which stands for Protected Geographical Indication. Both of these labels are used in the European Union. These are certifications that ensure the authenticity of the source. For a particular area to be awarded the PDO/DOP status, it must be grown, produced and bottled in the designated area, but it must also meet strict requirements in terms of varietals, method of production and overall quality. Olive oils without these labels can still be healthy for you, but if you are looking for a product from a specific region, they may help you pinpoint your desired bottle.

Various organizations play a role in monitoring olive oil’s quality in the U.S. too. The Olive Oil Commission of California, for example, plays a key role in verifying California olive oil quality through mandatory government sampling and third-party testing.

To turn olives into olive oil, the olives need to be squeezed – or pressed – in various ways. The different methods of extraction can impact the purity of your oil and its antioxidant content.

Long ago, all olive oils were made with a hands-on method called cold pressing, through which olives were ground on stone, spread on mats made of natural materials and pressed to extract the oil. With modern technology, cold pressing has evolved into a method more accurately described as machine extraction. Due to the historical context, machine-extracted olive oil is still described as cold-pressed by some companies – though some have phased out this term.

Machine extracted, or cold-pressed

Machine-extracted olive oils produce what we know as virgin olive oils, the highest quality of which are known as extra-virgin olive oils, or EVOO.

To make machine-extracted olive oil, olives are ground into a paste, then mixed and run through a decanter – a type of centrifuge. This milling process takes place at a temperature of no more than 27 degrees Celsius, or about 81 degrees Fahrenheit. While this might not be considered “cold” to some people, it “indicates that the temperature has been kept below a degree that will degrade the oil,” says Alexandra Kicenik Devarenne, an olive oil educator and the director of the Extra Virgin Alliance, the specialty section of the North American Olive Oil Association.

And because this method does not use chemicals, it yields an olive oil with several health benefits, she adds.

Machine-extracted oil also comes with robust levels of vitamins, and “ensures higher quantities of vitamin E and other polyphenols in the oil, which are potent antioxidants that can protect the oil from oxidative damage,” Richter says.

Machine-extracted olives and virgin olive oils

Before a machine-extracted oil can get a virgin or an extra virgin title, it is chemically tested and tasted by a panel of olive oil tasters to ensure it is up to standards – and truly the best.

“There’s a sensory methodology that was designed to grade olive oil. It is not one person who makes this determination,” Devarenne says. “It is a statistically analyzed evaluation by an official taste panel, which is a minimum of eight tasters who are specially trained for this process.”

Oils that meet chemical and taste benchmarks can be marked as EVOO, whereas oils that taste off or are otherwise not up to EVOO standards are either sold as “virgin” olive oils or (if they are categorized as the lowest grade of virgin oils) required to go through more processing before they can be sold for consumption.

High-heat processing

Olive oil without the virgin or EVOO label goes through a refining process that involves higher heat and strips the oil of some, but not all, of the healthful properties present in EVOO

In this method, oil that doesn’t meet the EVOO standards is put through a higher-heat processor (sometimes with added chemicals) to get it shelf-ready for consumers. This process will take out some of the “funky” tastes or other components that withheld the olive oil from the EVOO designation and can take out some of its healthy antioxidants as well. After going through these additional processes, the olive oil is mixed with some amount of EVOO before hitting the shelves.

Standard olive oils have a lighter color, blander flavor and lower antioxidant content, says Devarenne. Even so, they are not void of health benefits altogether. Importantly, standard olive oils come with the same healthy fats as other olive oils, she says.

“How the olives are processed is arguably the most important component in determining how healthy and nutrient-dense it’ll be,” Richter says. “The process of heating an oil can significantly degrade the nutrients present.”

Opt for cold-pressed olive oils over high-heat refined olive oils for maximum health benefits.

Extra virgin olive oil, or EVOO, is the purest and least processed form of olive oil. EVOO is “generally healthier with more antioxidants, polyphenols (and) heart-friendly monounsaturated fats,” Jones says.

As a bonus, EVOO’s tend to be made with higher-quality olives, Richter says. “This means that these oils are richer and more pungent in flavor and typically more pure too.”

You may have noticed that many olive oils come in dark green bottles. Well, that’s not just for aesthetic marketing. Richter explains that olive oil can be vulnerable to ultraviolet light damage (which can degrade its healthy fat content) and dark bottles can protect against exposure.

Extra-virgin olive oil’s biggest enemy is oxidation, which is caused by light, heat and oxygen. Therefore, it’s best to purchase olive oil that’s in a container that can keep the product as fresh as possible. Look for dark-colored glass bottles, or any other opaque, well-sealed bottle, such as containers made of ceramic or aluminum. Some olive oil is sold in metal tins or a bag-in-box, the way some boxed wines are sold.

After you buy it, to protect olive oil from oxidation, store it in a cool and dark place, such as a kitchen cabinet. To consume olive oil in its peak condition, it’s best to finish a bottle of extra-virgin olive oil between six weeks and four months of purchasing it, depending on how many people are consuming it and the size of the bottle.

“If possible, choose an oil that is organic,” Richter says. “This means that the olives were grown with fewer chemicals and pesticides.” Exposure to certain chemicals, pesticides and contaminants “can contribute to longer-term health issues,” so going organic can help you mitigate risks, she adds.

Unfortunately, this can also mean purchasing a more expensive bottle, she says.

How your olive oil tastes can provide information on its health profile. Extra-virgin olive oil is a minimally processed food and should taste of fresh olives, not cured ones. The fruity notes in olive oil can be green, with grassy, herbaceous or artichoke flavors, or ripe, with a nutty, buttery or banana taste. In general, olive oils with higher phenol content will have a bitter and/or peppery taste.

The purest, healthiest olive oils will have different taste profiles than refined, heavily processed olive oils, Jones says. Ultra-processed olive oil can taste more bland or flavorless, while “genuine extra virgin olive oil should have a robust flavor,” she says.

But chances are, if you’re looking for a new healthy olive oil, you don’t know how it tastes yet. Jones recommends asking for a sample before you buy.

Like wines, olive oils can be made with a single olive variety, which can allow you to appreciate the unique character and flavor profile of that particular olive. On the other hand, olive oil blends, are crafted from multiple olive varieties. Blending different cultivars creates a delightful complexity that elevates your culinary creations.

Italian pastry making patisserie baking confectioner: Toasting almonds on baking tray

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Nuts and seeds

Packed with protein and healthy fats, as well as vitamin E, magnesium and copper, nuts and seeds are a key part of the Mediterranean diet – and happen to make excellent snacks.

You can eat nuts as they are or toasted. For example, you can roast nuts on a baking sheet with the oven set to 350 degrees Fahrenheit until they’re fragrant, approximately 10 minutes.

“Once you can smell them, they’re ready to enjoy,” Bishop says. “I like to toss them with chopped fresh rosemary and a pinch of salt as soon as they come out of the oven. Chili powder is another good option.”

Mediterranean nuts and seeds include:

  • Almonds.
  • Cashews.
  • Hazelnuts.
  • Pine nuts.
  • Pistachios.
  • Pumpkin seeds.
  • Sesame seeds.
  • Walnuts.
NEXT:Mediterranean bean salad
Tasty bean salad with chick peas, kidney beans and tomatoes.Tasty bean salad with chick peas, kidney beans and tomatoes.

9/25

 CREDIT

Mediterranean bean salad

For a fresh and healthy dish, you can’t beat Mediterranean bean salad, Young says.

This dish contains colorful vegetables that are rich in antioxidants and vitamins A and C, heart-healthy olive oil and legumes, which are high in protein and fiber. You can enjoy this salad as a snack or meal.

The dish is easy to make: Combine chickpeas and kidney beans with chopped tomatoes, cucumber, onion and red pepper. Drizzle the ingredients with a homemade vinaigrette dressing made of olive oil, lemon juice, balsamic vinegar, Dijon mustard, garlic, oregano, salt and pepper.

As an option, you can sprinkle the salad with feta cheese.

NEXT:Mediterranean pizza
A healthy and decadent trumpet/ king oyster mushroom pizza with coriander, hazelnut and carrot top pesto, wild spinach and kalamata olives.

10/25

 CREDIT

Mediterranean pizza

Who doesn’t love pizza?

Pizza with a Mediterranean twist is tasty and nutritious, Young says. She suggests topping a whole-wheat tortilla or cauliflower pizza crust with marinara sauce and your favorite veggies.

“I love roasted eggplant, mushrooms and broccoli,” she says.

Top it with mozzarella cheese, sprinkle with oregano and black pepper, and you’re good to go.

This article is based on reporting that features expert sources.

Vegan snack board. Flat-lay of Various Vegetarian dips hummus, babaganush and muhammara with crackers, bread, fresh vegetables on wooden board over grey background. Clean eating, dieting food concept

1/25

 CREDIT

The Mediterranean diet encourages healthy snacking.

The Mediterranean diet is widely considered one of the healthiest and most sustainable eating patterns. The diet emphasizes eating plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and legumes, as well as fish and seafood, and has been ranked No. 1 in U.S. News’ Best Diets Overall year after year.

While there are many Mediterranean recipes and meal delivery services, snacking throughout the day is part of this popular diet.

“Finding healthy snacks is easy when following the Mediterranean diet,” says Jack Bishop, chief creative officer of America’s Test Kitchen. “There’s a long tradition of small plates throughout the region, from tapas in Spain to antipasti in Italy and meze in Greece and Turkey.”

Here are 21 delicious Mediterranean diet snack ideas.

NEXT:Avocado toast
Avocado toast being seasoned with lime

2/25

 CREDIT

Avocado toast

Avocado toast is a healthy, no-fuss snack or breakfast option that is packed with heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acidsprotein and fiber.

“Avocado toast is a favorite of mine,” says Lisa R. Young, a registered dietitian and adjunct professor of nutrition at New York University in New York City. “I love to spread avocado on whole-grain toast. It is delicious, as well as nutritious, and contains heart-healthy fat and fiber.”

While there are several ways to make this nutritious treat, a tried-and-true method is to start by placing slices of ripe avocado and soft-boiled egg on top of whole-grain toast. Lightly season with salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle crushed red pepper flakes for added spiciness or lime juice for an extra boost of flavor.

NEXT:Baba ghanouj
Baba ganoush Levantine or indian cuisine appetizer of baked eggplant and sesame paste

3/25

 CREDIT

Baba ghanouj

Baba ghanouj, an eggplant purée, is an enormously popular dish throughout the Middle East that looks a lot like hummus and typically has a smoky flavor.

Made with extra-virgin olive oil, eggplant and tahini, baba ghanouj is a tasty and nutritious Mediterranean spread that’s great for snacking, says Maria Stavropoulos, a registered dietitian based in New York City.

The creamy dip is low in carbohydrates and provides vitamin C, iron, potassium and calcium.

You can eat baba ghanouj with carrots, celery, jicama or mini peppers.

NEXT:Fava bean dip
A bowl of white bean dip with sage garnish.

4/25

 CREDIT

Fava bean dip

Fava beans are a legume packed with vitamins, minerals and protein, Stavropoulos says. But they’re also a great source of soluble fiber, which helps lower cholesterol by binding with the cholesterol and removing it from the body.

A fava bean dip goes great with non-starchy vegetables, such as:

  • Carrots.
  • Celery.
  • Cucumber.
NEXT:Hummus
Different hummus bowls. Chickpea hummus, avocado hummus and lentils hummus on gray stone background

5/25

 CREDIT

Hummus

Hummus is a healthy, versatile and crowd-pleasing snack. Hummus is available in a wide variety of flavors in many stores. Flavors include artichoke and spinach, lemon, pine nut, roasted garlic and roasted red pepper.

Since it’s made with chickpeasolive oil and tahini, it’s an excellent source of healthy fats and protein.

You can serve hummus with an array of healthy fresh veggies, including:

  • Carrots.
  • Celery.
  • Cherry tomatoes.
  • Cucumbers.
NEXT:Red lentil dip or soup
Shot of red lentil dip seasoned with parsley and lemon

6/25

 CREDIT

Red lentil dip or soup

Red lentil dip is another wholesome Mediterranean treat that’s made with a bright blend of healthy spices, including cumin, cayenne, paprika and turmeric. Red lentils are a terrific plant-based source of protein and also provide fiber and B vitamins. You can serve it with raw veggies, like carrots, celery and sliced cucumber, or with whole-wheat pita. You can purchase red lentil dip in many grocery stores or make your own.

In addition to making a great dip, red lentils are great in a soup, Stavropoulos says. Red lentil soup is available in many grocery stores, and it’s not difficult to make your own.

NEXT:Oven-roasted bell peppers
Red peppers cooked on tray to be put on oven

7/25

 CREDIT

Oven-roasted bell peppers

For a healthy, tasty and easy-to-prepare Mediterranean diet snack, oven-roasted bell peppers are a great option. Whether you choose red, green, yellow or orange peppers, these colorful vegetables are an excellent source of vitamin C.

To cook the peppers, preheat the oven to 500 degrees Fahrenheit. Then, slice them in half and remove the stem, seeds and white membrane. Drizzle them with olive or avocado oil and place them skin side up on a baking sheet. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes.

Once the skin blisters and begins to blacken, transfer them to a bowl and cover with plastic wrap until cool. Remove the skin, and add a splash of balsamic vinegar or your favorite Italian dressing for extra flavor.

NEXT:Nuts and seeds
Italian pastry making patisserie baking confectioner: Toasting almonds on baking tray

8/25

 CREDIT

Nuts and seeds

Packed with protein and healthy fats, as well as vitamin E, magnesium and copper, nuts and seeds are a key part of the Mediterranean diet – and happen to make excellent snacks.

You can eat nuts as they are or toasted. For example, you can roast nuts on a baking sheet with the oven set to 350 degrees Fahrenheit until they’re fragrant, approximately 10 minutes.

“Once you can smell them, they’re ready to enjoy,” Bishop says. “I like to toss them with chopped fresh rosemary and a pinch of salt as soon as they come out of the oven. Chili powder is another good option.”

Mediterranean nuts and seeds include:

  • Almonds.
  • Cashews.
  • Hazelnuts.
  • Pine nuts.
  • Pistachios.
  • Pumpkin seeds.
  • Sesame seeds.
  • Walnuts.
NEXT:Mediterranean bean salad
Tasty bean salad with chick peas, kidney beans and tomatoes.Tasty bean salad with chick peas, kidney beans and tomatoes.

9/25

 CREDIT

Mediterranean bean salad

For a fresh and healthy dish, you can’t beat Mediterranean bean salad, Young says.

This dish contains colorful vegetables that are rich in antioxidants and vitamins A and C, heart-healthy olive oil and legumes, which are high in protein and fiber. You can enjoy this salad as a snack or meal.

The dish is easy to make: Combine chickpeas and kidney beans with chopped tomatoes, cucumber, onion and red pepper. Drizzle the ingredients with a homemade vinaigrette dressing made of olive oil, lemon juice, balsamic vinegar, Dijon mustard, garlic, oregano, salt and pepper.

As an option, you can sprinkle the salad with feta cheese.

NEXT:Mediterranean pizza
A healthy and decadent trumpet/ king oyster mushroom pizza with coriander, hazelnut and carrot top pesto, wild spinach and kalamata olives.

10/25

 CREDIT

Mediterranean pizza

Who doesn’t love pizza?

Pizza with a Mediterranean twist is tasty and nutritious, Young says. She suggests topping a whole-wheat tortilla or cauliflower pizza crust with marinara sauce and your favorite veggies.

“I love roasted eggplant, mushrooms and broccoli,” she says.

Top it with mozzarella cheese, sprinkle with oregano and black pepper, and you’re good to go.

NEXT:Kale chips
Top view of kale chips.

11/25

 CREDIT

Kale chips

For a snack that’s tasty, portable and nutritious, try kale chips.

“If you’re like me, you enjoy a crunchy snack every now and then,” Young says. “Kale chips hit the spot. Not only are potato chips higher in calories than kale chips, kale provides you with a dose of good nutrition. They provide vitamins A and C, along with the B vitamin folate and calcium.”

You can buy kale chips at many stores, but they’re also quick and easy to make at home.

Start by preheating the oven to 225 degrees Fahrenheit. Meanwhile, take a large bundle of green or purple kale and place it in a mixing bowl. Splash the kale with coconut or avocado oil, sprinkle a bit of salt and add spices – like cumin powder, curry powder or chili powder – to brighten the flavor.

Spread the kale over a baking sheet and bake it into the oven for about 15 to 20 minutes. Rotate to the pan and lightly toss the kale to ensure it bakes evenly.

Continue baking for another 5 to 10 minutes. Once the leafy greens are crispy and slightly golden brown, remove them from the oven.

Let the kale chips cool and enjoy.

Grill Toast with Honey, Cream Cheese or Ricotta and Fresh Ripe Figs on Cutting Board.

12/25

 CREDIT

Fresh figs with yogurt, honey and nuts

Figs are a staple in the Mediterranean diet and contain an array of nutrients, including vitamin B6 and copper. Figs also contain protein, fiber and antioxidants, which research suggests may help protect against cancer, heart disease and age-related conditions like dementia.

For a tasty and healthy Mediterranean snack, place fresh figs on top of a cup of Greek yogurt and add honey and nuts, says Lisa Jones, a registered dietitian based in Philadelphia.

Homemade healthy frozen cereal blueberry yogurt bark with mango and cherry on a white background, tray top view close up

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 CREDIT

Yogurt bark

Yogurt bark is a healthy Mediterranean-friendly snack or dessert that contains probiotics, calcium and protein. Plus, it’s tasty and easy to make, Young says.

To make yogurt bark, spread vanilla-flavored yogurt on a baking sheet. Top with chopped blueberries and/or strawberries. Add your favorite chopped nuts and freeze for at least several hours. Once your confection is frozen, cut into squares or small pieces and serve cold. Make sure to store leftovers in the freezer.

Vegan snack board. Flat-lay of Various Vegetarian dips hummus, babaganush and muhammara with crackers, bread, fresh vegetables on wooden board over grey background. Clean eating, dieting food concept

1/25

 CREDIT

The Mediterranean diet encourages healthy snacking.

The Mediterranean diet is widely considered one of the healthiest and most sustainable eating patterns. The diet emphasizes eating plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and legumes, as well as fish and seafood, and has been ranked No. 1 in U.S. News’ Best Diets Overall year after year.

While there are many Mediterranean recipes and meal delivery services, snacking throughout the day is part of this popular diet.

“Finding healthy snacks is easy when following the Mediterranean diet,” says Jack Bishop, chief creative officer of America’s Test Kitchen. “There’s a long tradition of small plates throughout the region, from tapas in Spain to antipasti in Italy and meze in Greece and Turkey.”

Here are 21 delicious Mediterranean diet snack ideas.

NEXT:Avocado toast
Avocado toast being seasoned with lime

2/25

 CREDIT

Avocado toast

Avocado toast is a healthy, no-fuss snack or breakfast option that is packed with heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acidsprotein and fiber.

“Avocado toast is a favorite of mine,” says Lisa R. Young, a registered dietitian and adjunct professor of nutrition at New York University in New York City. “I love to spread avocado on whole-grain toast. It is delicious, as well as nutritious, and contains heart-healthy fat and fiber.”

While there are several ways to make this nutritious treat, a tried-and-true method is to start by placing slices of ripe avocado and soft-boiled egg on top of whole-grain toast. Lightly season with salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle crushed red pepper flakes for added spiciness or lime juice for an extra boost of flavor.

NEXT:Baba ghanouj
Baba ganoush Levantine or indian cuisine appetizer of baked eggplant and sesame paste

3/25

 CREDIT

Baba ghanouj

Baba ghanouj, an eggplant purée, is an enormously popular dish throughout the Middle East that looks a lot like hummus and typically has a smoky flavor.

Made with extra-virgin olive oil, eggplant and tahini, baba ghanouj is a tasty and nutritious Mediterranean spread that’s great for snacking, says Maria Stavropoulos, a registered dietitian based in New York City.

The creamy dip is low in carbohydrates and provides vitamin C, iron, potassium and calcium.

You can eat baba ghanouj with carrots, celery, jicama or mini peppers.

NEXT:Fava bean dip
A bowl of white bean dip with sage garnish.

4/25

 CREDIT

Fava bean dip

Fava beans are a legume packed with vitamins, minerals and protein, Stavropoulos says. But they’re also a great source of soluble fiber, which helps lower cholesterol by binding with the cholesterol and removing it from the body.

A fava bean dip goes great with non-starchy vegetables, such as:

  • Carrots.
  • Celery.
  • Cucumber.
NEXT:Hummus
Different hummus bowls. Chickpea hummus, avocado hummus and lentils hummus on gray stone background

5/25

 CREDIT

Hummus

Hummus is a healthy, versatile and crowd-pleasing snack. Hummus is available in a wide variety of flavors in many stores. Flavors include artichoke and spinach, lemon, pine nut, roasted garlic and roasted red pepper.

Since it’s made with chickpeasolive oil and tahini, it’s an excellent source of healthy fats and protein.

You can serve hummus with an array of healthy fresh veggies, including:

  • Carrots.
  • Celery.
  • Cherry tomatoes.
  • Cucumbers.
NEXT:Red lentil dip or soup
Shot of red lentil dip seasoned with parsley and lemon

6/25

 CREDIT

Red lentil dip or soup

Red lentil dip is another wholesome Mediterranean treat that’s made with a bright blend of healthy spices, including cumin, cayenne, paprika and turmeric. Red lentils are a terrific plant-based source of protein and also provide fiber and B vitamins. You can serve it with raw veggies, like carrots, celery and sliced cucumber, or with whole-wheat pita. You can purchase red lentil dip in many grocery stores or make your own.

In addition to making a great dip, red lentils are great in a soup, Stavropoulos says. Red lentil soup is available in many grocery stores, and it’s not difficult to make your own.

NEXT:Oven-roasted bell peppers
Red peppers cooked on tray to be put on oven

7/25

 CREDIT

Oven-roasted bell peppers

For a healthy, tasty and easy-to-prepare Mediterranean diet snack, oven-roasted bell peppers are a great option. Whether you choose red, green, yellow or orange peppers, these colorful vegetables are an excellent source of vitamin C.

To cook the peppers, preheat the oven to 500 degrees Fahrenheit. Then, slice them in half and remove the stem, seeds and white membrane. Drizzle them with olive or avocado oil and place them skin side up on a baking sheet. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes.

Once the skin blisters and begins to blacken, transfer them to a bowl and cover with plastic wrap until cool. Remove the skin, and add a splash of balsamic vinegar or your favorite Italian dressing for extra flavor.

NEXT:Nuts and seeds
Italian pastry making patisserie baking confectioner: Toasting almonds on baking tray

8/25

 CREDIT

Nuts and seeds

Packed with protein and healthy fats, as well as vitamin E, magnesium and copper, nuts and seeds are a key part of the Mediterranean diet – and happen to make excellent snacks.

You can eat nuts as they are or toasted. For example, you can roast nuts on a baking sheet with the oven set to 350 degrees Fahrenheit until they’re fragrant, approximately 10 minutes.

“Once you can smell them, they’re ready to enjoy,” Bishop says. “I like to toss them with chopped fresh rosemary and a pinch of salt as soon as they come out of the oven. Chili powder is another good option.”

Mediterranean nuts and seeds include:

  • Almonds.
  • Cashews.
  • Hazelnuts.
  • Pine nuts.
  • Pistachios.
  • Pumpkin seeds.
  • Sesame seeds.
  • Walnuts.
NEXT:Mediterranean bean salad
Tasty bean salad with chick peas, kidney beans and tomatoes.Tasty bean salad with chick peas, kidney beans and tomatoes.

9/25

 CREDIT

Mediterranean bean salad

For a fresh and healthy dish, you can’t beat Mediterranean bean salad, Young says.

This dish contains colorful vegetables that are rich in antioxidants and vitamins A and C, heart-healthy olive oil and legumes, which are high in protein and fiber. You can enjoy this salad as a snack or meal.

The dish is easy to make: Combine chickpeas and kidney beans with chopped tomatoes, cucumber, onion and red pepper. Drizzle the ingredients with a homemade vinaigrette dressing made of olive oil, lemon juice, balsamic vinegar, Dijon mustard, garlic, oregano, salt and pepper.

As an option, you can sprinkle the salad with feta cheese.

NEXT:Mediterranean pizza
A healthy and decadent trumpet/ king oyster mushroom pizza with coriander, hazelnut and carrot top pesto, wild spinach and kalamata olives.

10/25

 CREDIT

Mediterranean pizza

Who doesn’t love pizza?

Pizza with a Mediterranean twist is tasty and nutritious, Young says. She suggests topping a whole-wheat tortilla or cauliflower pizza crust with marinara sauce and your favorite veggies.

“I love roasted eggplant, mushrooms and broccoli,” she says.

Top it with mozzarella cheese, sprinkle with oregano and black pepper, and you’re good to go.

NEXT:Kale chips
Top view of kale chips.

11/25

 CREDIT

Kale chips

For a snack that’s tasty, portable and nutritious, try kale chips.

“If you’re like me, you enjoy a crunchy snack every now and then,” Young says. “Kale chips hit the spot. Not only are potato chips higher in calories than kale chips, kale provides you with a dose of good nutrition. They provide vitamins A and C, along with the B vitamin folate and calcium.”

You can buy kale chips at many stores, but they’re also quick and easy to make at home.

Start by preheating the oven to 225 degrees Fahrenheit. Meanwhile, take a large bundle of green or purple kale and place it in a mixing bowl. Splash the kale with coconut or avocado oil, sprinkle a bit of salt and add spices – like cumin powder, curry powder or chili powder – to brighten the flavor.

Spread the kale over a baking sheet and bake it into the oven for about 15 to 20 minutes. Rotate to the pan and lightly toss the kale to ensure it bakes evenly.

Continue baking for another 5 to 10 minutes. Once the leafy greens are crispy and slightly golden brown, remove them from the oven.

Let the kale chips cool and enjoy.

NEXT:Fresh figs with yogurt, honey and nuts
Grill Toast with Honey, Cream Cheese or Ricotta and Fresh Ripe Figs on Cutting Board.

12/25

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Fresh figs with yogurt, honey and nuts

Figs are a staple in the Mediterranean diet and contain an array of nutrients, including vitamin B6 and copper. Figs also contain protein, fiber and antioxidants, which research suggests may help protect against cancer, heart disease and age-related conditions like dementia.

For a tasty and healthy Mediterranean snack, place fresh figs on top of a cup of Greek yogurt and add honey and nuts, says Lisa Jones, a registered dietitian based in Philadelphia.

NEXT:Yogurt bark
Homemade healthy frozen cereal blueberry yogurt bark with mango and cherry on a white background, tray top view close up

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Yogurt bark

Yogurt bark is a healthy Mediterranean-friendly snack or dessert that contains probiotics, calcium and protein. Plus, it’s tasty and easy to make, Young says.

To make yogurt bark, spread vanilla-flavored yogurt on a baking sheet. Top with chopped blueberries and/or strawberries. Add your favorite chopped nuts and freeze for at least several hours. Once your confection is frozen, cut into squares or small pieces and serve cold. Make sure to store leftovers in the freezer.

NEXT:Crispy roasted chickpeas
Tray of baked or roasted chick-peas seasoned with paprika and oregano. Overhead view looking down.

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Crispy roasted chickpeas

Chickpeas are a versatile legume that can take on a variety of forms and textures. While they can be enjoyed as the star ingredient in hummus, snacking on them whole is a convenient – and poppable – way to reap all the nutritional benefits of chickpeas.

Start by draining a can of chickpeas to remove the aquafaba, then transfer the chickpeas to a layer of paper towels to gently rub dry. Place the chickpeas in a bowl and drizzle them with extra-virgin olive oil to reintroduce some moisture. Season them well with salt, pepper and healthy spices, such as chili powder, smoked paprika and cumin.

Bake the chickpeas at 425 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes. By then, the chickpeas should be crispy, but if you prefer them a little more toasted, continue to bake for a few more minutes.

socca, farinata, chickpea pancake with rose wine

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Socca

Another snack starring chickpeas, socca is a crispy, savory pancake that is popularly sold as street food in Nice, France.

But you don’t have to travel to the French Riviera to enjoy socca – you can prepare it at home with four simple ingredients: chickpea flour, extra-virgin olive oil, sea salt and water.

To make this delicious and nutritious snack, start by preheating the oven to 475 degrees with a cast iron pan inside. In the meantime, combine 1 cup of chickpea flour, 1 cup of water, 1 tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil and ½ teaspoon of salt and whisk until smooth. Let the batter rest for a few minutes.

Carefully remove the hot pan from the oven, and brush with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Pour the batter into the pan, and return it to the oven to bake for 15 to 20 minutes. You’ll know the socca is ready when the edges are lightly browned and crispy.

Using a spatula, unstick the socca from the pan and slide it onto a cutting board. Top with other spices and herbs to your liking.

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Marinated olives and feta

Marinated olives and feta is a classic Mediterranean snack that perfectly pairs the briny, tangy flavors of the olives with the creaminess of the cheese.

While you can purchase pre-made olives and feta at your local grocery store, you can also make them at home with common ingredients you might already have in your pantry.

In a mason jar, combine pitted green or kalamata olives, garlic, dried oregano, red pepper flakes, small squares of feta cheese and olive oil, and mix well to combine. Place the jar in the refrigerator to let the olives marinate for at least half an hour before serving.

Glasses of pumpkin chia seed pudding

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Chia seed pudding

Chia seed pudding is a sweet, delicious way to reap all the benefits of chia seeds. These tiny but mighty seeds are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, protein, antioxidants and fiber.

Plus, this is a versatile snack that can be topped with fruit, dark chocolate, nuts and other seeds.

To create the base, combine 2 tablespoons of chia seeds with ½ cup of almond milk, 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract and 1 teaspoon of honey or maple syrup. Once the ingredients are mixed well, cover and place in the fridge overnight.

Dolma in green vine leaves served in pottery bowl, sour cream in bowl as dressing, Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisine

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Dolmas

A staple of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisines, dolmas are stuffed grape leaves made with a mixture of rice, fresh herbs and spice, vegetables and meat for a nutty and savory bite-size treat.

To make dolmas, start by preparing the filling: Mix cooked rice, finely chopped vegetables, minced meat and fresh herbs with extra-virgin olive oil. Season to taste with salt. Then, place a small amount of the filling into a grape leaf, folding in the sides and rolling them into small cylinders. Place the stuffed leaves in a pot with olive oil and lemon juice and cook over medium heat until fully cooked.

You can also buy them premade at many grocery stores.

Homemade Fresh Caprese Skewer Appetizer with Tomato Basil and Mozarella

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Caprese salad sticks

Caprese salad sticks are a convenient take on the traditional dish. While the ingredients are all the same as the dish version of this salad, you assemble them on a skewer for a healthy, on-the-go snack or crowd-pleasing appetizer that you can make ahead of time.

Stick a small fresh mozzarella ball onto a skewer, followed by a fresh basil leaf folded in half and a cherry tomato, and repeat with the next skewer. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and drizzle with balsamic reduction sauce.

Open sandwich from wholegrain bread with nut crunchy almond butter

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Whole-grain toast with almond butter

If you’re hungry but looking to satisfy your sweet tooth at the same time, whole-grain toast with almond butter makes for a perfect and filling snack thanks to the fiber in the bread.

Plus, when you top it with a sundry of dried fruit, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds and flaxseeds, you’re boosting this snack’s nutritional value with omega-3s, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and, yes, even more fiber.

Homemade popcorn filled with spices and grains. Perfect snack for movie days at home.

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Cheesy popcorn with extra-virgin olive oil

If you’re looking for a no-frills snack that can be ready in no time, look no further than popcorn. However, this isn’t movie popcorn we’re referring to.

Instead of the bucket of popcorn drench in butter, this healthy, Mediterranean-style version includes simple ingredients: plain popcorn, olive oil and sea salt. Add nutritional yeast for a dairy-free way to give it a cheesy flavor, plus the added bonus of vitamin B12.

NEXT:21 Mediterranean snack ideas:

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21 Mediterranean snack ideas:

  • Avocado toast.
  • Baba ghanouj.
  • Fava bean dip.
  • Hummus.
  • Red lentil dip or soup.
  • Oven-roasted bell peppers.
  • Nuts and seeds.
  • Mediterranean bean salad.
  • Mediterranean pizza.
  • Kale chips.
  • Fresh figs with yogurt, honey and nuts.
  • Yogurt bark.
  • Crispy roasted chickpeas.
  • Socca.
  • Marinated olives and feta.
  • Chia seed pudding.
  • Dolmas.
  • Olive tapenade.
  • Caprese salad sticks.
  • Whole-grain toast with almond butter.
  • Cheesy popcorn with extra-virgin olive oil.

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