Mediterranean diet: the ultimate list of the best vegetables to eat for good health

Hello and welcome to this sub-section of the guide to Mediterranean diet, a summary of which can be found here.

In this chapter, we'll take a look at the importance of vegetables Mediterranean lifestyle: what are they and how do what benefits do they bring? to our body?

As you saw in the introductory chapter on the Mediterranean dietthe application of this "regime" consists of "imitate" the traditional dietary practices of certain Mediterranean peoples to reap health benefits These include longer life expectancy, lower risk of cardiovascular disease, degenerative diseases, diabetes and cancer, and in turn, potential weight loss.

As part of this healthy quest, the regular consumption of vegetables would be one of the factors co-responsible for improving health indicators of Mediterranean populations. We'll try to list as many of them as possible, in order to give you as many ideas as possible for recipes, while at the same time trying to list some of their benefits.

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Obviously, it would be utopian to list the virtues of each ingredient, especially as most of them, when consumed together, bring their own share of benefits. But we can nevertheless try to list some of the known benefits of a particular vegetableKeep in mind that vegetables seem to be beneficial when eaten together, without necessarily paying particular attention to them. So it's not a question of identifying one or two vegetables in particular and falling into the trap of a "mono-diet" (such as the eggs and spinach eaten every morning by some athletes), which would make no sense either in terms of taste or health, and even less in terms of respecting the seasons, but rather to take advantage of the virtues of a diversified vegetable intake in the diet, following the example of regions bordering the Mediterranean, particularly since the Neolithic era, which marked the birth of agriculture in the Near East.

When it comes to vegetables, there aren't really any hard and fast rules to follow, because if you start with the modern diet, even the slightest reintroduction of vegetables and raw vegetables is a big step towards a healthier diet. However, as is often the case, it's the dose that makes the poison. So it's a question of consuming them intelligently, all things considered, and avoiding excessive consumption at inappropriate times, especially when you're not at all used to eating them. A gradual introduction is therefore recommended to get your body used to digesting them.

In this section, we will deliberately set aside visit pulses (or seed vegetables)which are a particular type of energy vegetable, and which will be the subject of a separate article, and we will sometimes mention certain nutrients that straddle the line between vegetables, the herbsor others, according to the nomenclature in force, but also according to dietetic logic. Pulses, like potatoes, are a type of vegetable whose intake really needs to be quantified, as they are vegetables in their own right from a dietetic and nutritional point of view.

Indeed, if we take the potato as an example, it's certainly a vegetable in botanical terms, more precisely a tuberous vegetable. However, from an energy point of view, it is more akin to a starch. It would be intellectually dishonest, and above all It's counterproductive to suggest that all-you-can-eat potatoes have the same effect on your health and figure as broccoli.

Just like legumes, tuber vegetables need special treatment. They're neither good nor bad, but you simply have to understand the logicWe're going to explain it all in detail in this and the following chapters. Don't panic, we'll go into all this in detail in this and subsequent chapters, so that you can understand the "global" logic of the Mediterranean diet and good eating in general.

Moreover, the desire to reduce Mediterranean diet to a single factor, such as vegetables in this case, in the hope of reaping the benefits, is wishful thinking. Admittedly, this is a first step towards a food rebalancingand probably towards a better health. However, the Mediterranean diet, as well as the advice given in this guide in general, such as moderating energy intake in the form of carbohydrates or to prioritize raw foods, should be considered in the context of the a comprehensive, holistic approachIt's not like a magic formula where we eat the same type of vegetable every day without paying attention to everything else, as if it were going to do us good.

So, this chapter on vegetables should be seen as just one of many ways to improve your health in the Mediterranean lifestyle, and more generally in the the Blooness guide to the ideal diet.

The benefits of vegetables in the human diet

One of the reasons for eating vegetables is that most healthy populations consume a significant amount of it. The idea is to imitate this practice, bearing in mind that it is part of a holistic approach, not an isolated one.

But imitation doesn't mean blindness, and it's important to understand why we imitate this dietary practice. If vegetables are beneficial, it's for the nutrients they contain, and the satiety they bring. Here's a brief overview of their content and the virtues that can be derived from eating them.

Fiber

The most well-known nutritional characteristic attributed to vegetables is their richness in fibersand the fact that most of them are very low in calories. Thanks to their low energy intakeThey enable the body to draw less energy from its daily nutritional intake, and therefore to be less "overwhelmed" with energy in the form of calories.

Secondly, most vegetables are low-carbohydrate for direct usein the sense that they do not provide carbohydrates in the form of sugars, but rather fibrous carbohydrates. As we saw in the chapter dedicated to fiber and carbohydrates, there is a fundamental difference between carbohydrates and fiber (even though they are often classified in the same family called "Carbohydrates" on nutrition labels), and that is that fiber is a particular type of carbohydrate that the body cannot assimilate and transform into energy. Fiber therefore only provides a symbolic amount of calories, which can be a problem in times of famine, but not in the context of an easily accessible diet as in modern society. Fiber also has other important benefits. In particular, it lowersglycemic index of a meal, improve digestion, and have beneficial effects on the intestinal microbiota.

Vegetables and vitamins

One of the accepted benefits of vegetables is their intake of various micro-nutrientswhich contribute to the proper functioning of the body. From the vitamin C to the various vitamins B, carotenoids and polyphenols, all contribute to better overall health.

Important vitamins in the Mediterranean diet include vitamin K. Remember that in the chapter dedicated to this vitamin, we saw that it had recently enjoyed a resurgence of interest on the scientific scene. It has a coagulant effectIn other words, it helps calcify tissues and repair blood vessels, to put it simply.

In addition to its action on the bone system, recent studies have shown that this vitamin is involved in numerous metabolic phenomena linked to cell growthand is associated with good cardiovascular health. However, as we saw in the chapter on K1, it is found in the form of K1 in most green vegetables, such as thyme, parsley, chard, dandelion, spinach, broccoli and endive. Less than 100 grams of broccoli, for example, more than satisfies the recommended daily minimum for a 75 kg adult.

Vegetables and minerals

Visit mineralsWe're not outdone by our vegetables. The Mediterranean diet brings its share of magnesiumof potassium and calciumThis is all the more precious when you move away from the standard modern diet, which is generally rich in cereals, fruit and dairy products. In other words, the more you cut back on carbohydrates and dairy products, the more you need to compensate with vegetables, to provide the necessary minerals.

As a reminder, the magnesiumfound in spinach, for example, has a favourable effect on cardiac function, muscle relaxation, blood pressure, and the regulation of blood pressure. blood glucoseand the metabolism of lipids. In the chapter on potassiumThe podium of foods rich in this vitamin is occupied by spinach, avocado, mushrooms, artichokes, fennel, lentils and white beans on the legume side. essential for cardiovascular health. It is particularly appreciated by sportsmen and women after exercise, but supplementation is dangerous, as you can't have too much. A simple diet rich in potassium-containing ingredients - in practice, vegetables - is enough to meet our needs.

Finally, the calciumIt's mainly found in cheeses, but also - and you can find this "top calcium foods" in the chapter dedicated to it - in vegetables such as broccoli, dandelion, watercress, spinach, Swiss chard, black olives, and white and kidney beans on the legume side, acts on bones but not only. It also acts on regulation of blood coagulation, nerve impulses and muscle contraction.

In a nutshell, vegetables provide the body with the vitamins and minerals it needs to function properly, especially when you decide to cut back on refined cereals and other foods with a high glycemic index, which, while they do provide interesting micronutrients, have the disadvantage of raising insulin levels too much (and therefore leading to overweight), and which are often processed foods.

Vegetables and polyphenols

The benefits of vegetables include polyphenolsand water-soluble molecules mainly present in the plant kingdom. While research has not yet explored all the characteristics of these micronutrients, we do know that they have a number of beneficial effects on the body. antioxidant propertiesin that they help combat cell oxidation, and thus combat cell ageing.

In fact, the plant uses the polyphenols it contains to defend itself against external aggressions such as UV rays, insects and disease. In humans, these molecules are believed to preventive effects against certain cancers, inflammatory, neurodegenerative and cardiovascular diseases.

Polyphenols are found in tea, cocoa, chillies, capers, broccoli, onions and eggplants, as well as in red fruits and other berries that have the advantage of being low in sugar, such as blackberries, bilberries, redcurrants, etc...

In short, polyphenols are a kind of super-nutrient, to which we'll devote an entire chapter. In the meantime, eating vegetables brings us our share of polyphenols, and the virtues that go with them.

Conclusion about vegetables: benefits against disease

Consequence of all the above points, vegetables have an effect on civilization diseasesA number of epidemiological studies tend to demonstrate this. Broccoli, cabbage, radishes, onions, garlic and many other vegetables delay the onset of cancerous, cardiovascular and inflammatory diseases, thanks to the many metabolic interactions in which the nutrients they provide play a part in the body. Vegetables could therefore be a kind of cellular ageing retardant for human beings, if you want to put it simply.

Finally, as you'll see from this list, which will be enriched in the future, most vegetables originate from Mediterranean regions, and were highly appreciated by ancient civilizations from the Near East to Rome and Greece. They are still grown and consumed today in most of the Mediterranean basin, but also in other parts of the world where the health of populations is remarkable.

 

The different types of vegetables

First of all, what is a vegetable? It is a plant of which certain parts can be eaten For example, root, stem, leaf, flower or fruit. However, not all vegetables are equal when it comes to energy! While the consumption of vegetables is more than recommended in this guide and in this chapter, there are certain vegetables which - as we shall see together - should not necessarily be consumed daily, and in unmoderate quantities, due to their energetic carbohydrate content.

Vegetables are classified according to the part they are commonly consumed. These are

  • flowering vegetables, whose flowers are eaten (e.g. broccoli);
  • leafy vegetables, whose leaves are eaten (lettuce);
  • Tuber vegetables, which are vegetable plants whose underground stem outgrowth forms the tuber, and serves as the plant's nutritional reserve. This family generally includes :
    • root vegetables, in which the underground part of the plant is edible, such as carrots;
    • stem vegetables (asparagus) ;
    • Bulb vegetables (garlic).

Secondly, some plants are not vegetables in the strict sense of the term, but can be eaten as such, and have properties relatively similar to vegetables. These include

  • Mushrooms ;
  • Fruiting vegetables, which are not vegetables in the strict sense of the term but fruits, but whose nutritional characteristics and the way in which they are eaten make them similar to vegetables (avocado);

Finally, vegetables also include seed vegetables or legumes (beans or chickpeas), which are so important that we'll dedicate a separate chapter to them.

The ultimate list of vegetables consumed and recommended in the Mediterranean diet

A. Flowering vegetables

Flowering vegetables are vegetable plants with edible flowers. These include cauliflower (whose pre-flower organ is actually eaten, but is listed here for simplicity's sake), broccoli, artichokes and capers. For your information, vegetables such as broccoli or cauliflower should be green or white respectively, and firm. If they're soft and starting to bloom, they're less and less fresh.

1/ Cauliflower

Originally from the Near East, where it was cultivated over 2,000 years ago, cauliflower was highly prized in ancient times by the Greeks and Romans. It is famous for its nutritional benefits, and for its very low calorie content. Rich in potassium, calcium and magnesium, vitamin B9 and vitamin C, it can be eaten raw or cooked, ideally steamed or gently cooked to avoid losing too many vitamins. Peak season in Europe is from September to April.

2/ Broccoli

Broccoli is a variety of cabbage native to Sicily, famous for its anti-cancer properties. Broccoli may also reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. There are variations on broccoli, such as rapini or broccoli root.

3/ Artichoke

Native to North Africa, Egypt and Ethiopia, the artichoke is the bud of a vegetable plant of the thistle family that grows in the Mediterranean region. It was highly prized by the Greeks and Romans, and during the Middle Ages acquired a reputation as an aphrodisiac. Antioxidant, it could play a role in preventing type II diabetesIt is also a good source of vitamin B3, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, copper, fiber and vitamin C.

4/ Caper

Capers are the flower buds of the caper plant. A popular condiment in southern cooking, capers are used to season mayonnaises, salads, meats and fish. Here too, it's a vegetable that was much appreciated by the ancient Greeks and Romans.

Capers are rich in minerals, vitamins and trace elements. It provides the body with vitamin AB, C, calcium, magnesium, potassium and flavonoids, those precious polyphenols we mentioned in the introduction to this chapter, known for their antioxidant effects. Its consumption is said to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and certain types of cancer.

 

B. Leafy vegetables

Leafy greens are the vegetables that make up our salads. whose leaves are edible endive, watercress, curly endive, lettuce, lamb's lettuce, rocket, batavia, endive, Swiss chard, spinach, cabbage (the flower and leaves can also be eaten), Brussels sprouts, Chinese cabbage, celery, fennel, sorrel, rhubarb, etc...

Swiss chard

Eaten raw, or sometimes cooked like spinach, chard is rich in minerals, antioxidants, vitamin C and beta-carotene. It is a vegetable rich in proteinswhich improves insulin secretion. It boosts the immune system, protects against cardiovascular disease and helps renew tissues.

It is anti-stress and anti-anemic thanks to its high ironantioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-infectious.

Known since ancient times by the Greeks and Romans, it is widely cultivated and consumed today in Corsica and the south of France.

Batavia

Native to Indonesia, batavia is a type of lettuce rich in vitamin B9 and vitamin K. It is therefore logically beneficial for pregnant women, and like many vegetables, contributes to good general health by warding off cardiovascular disease.

Celery

Historically very popular in Egypt, Greece and Rome, celery was used for its supposed medicinal and aphrodisiac virtues.

All types of cabbage

Watercress

This type of plant, with its strong, slightly bitter taste, can be eaten in salads or as a condiment. Like many other plants, watercress originated in the Middle East and was consumed by the Greeks and Romans for its therapeutic and culinary benefits.

It is characterized by a high iron content, and is said to have preventive benefits against the risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease.

Vegetable cortea

Little known in France, the vegetable corte is the basis of a very popular Mediterranean dish, Mloukhiah. It is also eaten in Africa and Asia. It is particularly rich in calcium, magnesium, iron and vitamins A, E and B.

Spinach

Also native to the Middle East (Iran to be precise), spinach arrived in Europe via the Arabs, who introduced it to Andalusia around the year 1000.

It's a vegetable with many virtues. It plays a role in vasodilatation and blood thinning, is very useful for the brain, is a good source of vitamin B9 (always useful for pregnant women), is thought to help prevent cancer, and helps stabilize blood sugar levels in diabetics. This vegetable has a positive effect on the immune system and cardiovascular disease. It is one of the most popular vegetables for weight-loss diets, thanks to its many virtues. However, it is important to learn how to cook it to make it tasty, as basic diets have sometimes made it bland.

Fennel

Native to the Mediterranean basin, fennel is recognized as an ally in the treatment of digestive disorders and inflammation of the respiratory tract. Traditionally, it has been used to treat flatulence, menstrual pain and to stimulate lactation.

Lettuce

Commonly used in salads, it needs no introduction.

Lamb's lettuce

Probably native to several regions of the world at once (southern Europe, North Africa and western Asia), lamb's lettuce then spread to the rest of Europe and the rest of the world. It is renowned for its antioxidant, anti-stress and immune-boosting properties.

La romaine

A member of the lettuce family, it is commonly used in salads.

Arugula

Famous for its strong flavor, arugula, like most vegetables, originates from the Mediterranean basin. It is typical of the south of France, and is very useful for digestive and kidney problems. It is said to have antiviral and antioxidant properties, and to reduce the risk of cardiovascular complications.

Endive

Rich in fiber, endive is a good source of vitamin B9, vitamin C and potassium. It helps reduce constipation and promotes satiety. Last but not least, it is a good antioxidant. It should be eaten mostly raw, or cooked but gently. To remove bitterness when cooking, you can remove the small white cone at the base of the core.

Dandelion

Native to Western Europe, dandelion is a wild plant whose leaves have beneficial properties for the liver and bile secretion, and are depurative, diuretic and laxative, helping to eliminate toxins.

Dandelion is an excellent preventive against kidney stones and digestive disorders, restores appetite, fights cellulite and is beneficial for diabetics.

It is a medicinal plant rich in calcium, iron, potassium and vitamins C and B.

Purslane

A staple of the Mediterranean diet, purslane is thought to have originated in Asia or India. An antioxidant, it has beneficial effects on the cardiovascular system, and is very rich in magnesium, calcium, manganese, iron, vitamin C, vitamin B2 and vitamin B12. B6. As you can see, just like the other vegetables listed here, purslane should be part of our diet, with as many different vegetables as possible to benefit from the widest possible spectrum of minerals and vitamins.

Parsley

Parsley, generally used as a garnish in Western cuisine, is sometimes consumed to a much greater extent in certain regions of the world, such as Lebanon, where it is used to make tabbouleh.

Not to be confused with bulbous or tuberous parsley, an ancient tuberous vegetable similar to parsnip, parsley is a leafy vegetable rich in antioxidants (flavonoids, lutein, beta-carotene), vitamins (C, B9 and K) and minerals (iron, calcium, manganese).

A pinch every day helps offset many vitamin and mineral deficiencies, especially iron and vitamin C.

It also stimulates gastric secretion, aids digestion and relieves flatulence. It is renowned for its diuretic action.

 

C. Tuber vegetables

1. Root vegetables

Root vegetables are characterized by the edibility of the part of the plant that grows underground. A root vegetable is a plant in which the underground part - which is edible - is the main part. is a root in its own rightThe root of the plant becomes a reserve organ called a tuber.

However, we usually distinguish root vegetables from stem vegetables, depending on whether their tuber is a "real" root, or just an underground stem. Indeed, some plants have subterranean outgrowths that are not roots as such, but rather stems, in purely botanical terms.

The list of "real" root vegetables includes :

Carrots:

Native to Asia, carrots are rich in minerals and beta-carotene (provitamin A). It contains phenolic compounds, carotenoids, polyacetylenes and vitamin C. These phytochemicals help prevent cancer and cardiovascular disease through their antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-tumor properties. Its consumption is beneficial for the immune system, and for the health of the skin, mucous membranes and vision.

It is a vegetable that is very rich in carbohydrates, most of which are simple sugars (sucrose, fructose and glucose), but as we saw in the chapter on glycemia, while its glycemic index is high (16 when raw, 47 when cooked), its glycemic load in relation to its carbohydrate intake per 100 grams is low (around 5).

Radish:

It was first cultivated in the Near East over 5,000 years ago. Rich in potassium, calcium and vitamin C, it is said to have a beneficial effect on the heart and digestive system, and, like most vegetables, helps prevent certain cancers.

Black radish:

Native to southern Asia, it has been cultivated in Egypt for over 5,000 years. It is said to help prevent certain cancers, has antiseptic and antibacterial properties, and is rich in vitamin C and potassium.

Turnip:

Rich in potassium, magnesium, phosphorus and fiber, it helps improve intestinal transit, but should not be overdone for those who have difficulty digesting it. An ancestral vegetable found in India for centuries, it can be eaten both cooked and raw.

Beet:

Beet is rich in flavonoids, the powerful antioxidants belonging to the polyphenols mentioned at the start of this chapter. Beetroot is famous for its supposed effects on high blood pressure, eye health - it is thought to prevent the onset of cataracts - and cognitive health by improving blood flow to certain areas of the brain.

Studies are also tending to show its effects against the development of cancer cells, while boosting the immune response.

Finally, beet is useful for athletes, improving muscle oxygenation and limiting the production of lactic acid following intense effort.

Beware, however: beet contains far more carbohydrates than the average raw vegetable, at 9.10g per 100g. A portion of 150 to 200g can therefore quickly increase your carbohydrate intake. Beet should therefore not be eaten on a regular basis, like a green vegetable such as broccoli, for example, failing which it may generate an unexpected sugar intake.

Celeriac:

Known for thousands of years for its medicinal virtues, this Mediterranean vegetable was widely consumed as a condiment by the Greeks, Egyptians and Romans, until it became relatively common in Europe, particularly France, in the 19th century.

On the virtues side, celeriac is recognized for its supposed anti-anemic, anti-inflammatory, diuretic and antiviral benefits.

It seems to prevent cardiovascular disease and is recommended for athletes, as it ensures good muscle contraction.

Jerusalem artichoke:

Native to North America rather than the Mediterranean, Jerusalem artichokes are nonetheless a tasty and nutritionally useful vegetable. It improves digestion and transit, prevents cardiovascular disease, reduces bad cholesterol and is therefore beneficial in the fight against diabetes.

But beware: like potatoes, it's a vegetable that can be classified as a starch, given its high carbohydrate content (up to 17 grams per 100g of food). Nevertheless, it has a moderate glycemic index of 50.

Potatoes:

Present in South America for more than 8,000 years, it has replaced forgotten vegetables such as Jerusalem artichokes, and is now the star starch of modern society, thanks to its low cost, its high energy content, particularly via its carbohydrate content, and its appreciated taste, whatever the way it's eaten.

Although potatoes have been turned into French fries in the world of junk food, they are still a healthy vegetable, provided they are cooked whole, steamed, without vegetable oils, and in reasonable quantities.

It's rich in vitamin B, vitamin C and potassium, making it particularly popular with athletes, who use it to recharge their muscle glycogen. However, unlike Jerusalem artichokes or sweet potatoes, it has a relatively high glycemic index of at least 70 when eaten healthily, and up to 95 if processed into flakes for mashed potatoes or French fries.

Sweet potato:

Once again, the sweet potato is not strictly speaking a Mediterranean vegetable, coming as it does from South America. But it is a starchy vegetable that offers a good alternative to the classic potato, with a glycemic index of just 50.

It has anti-stress, antioxidant, antiviral, anti-infectious and anti-inflammatory properties, invigorates and promotes blood circulation.

As an alternative to potatoes, it is particularly appreciated by sportsmen and women for its slower release of energy, and therefore its low insulin response, with all the positive effects this has on the body.

Salsify:

Salsify is a more or less forgotten root vegetable, with fibrous flesh and a slightly sweet taste. But unlike the sweet potato, its carbohydrate intake is not made up of starch, but of inulin, known for its purifying properties and its ability to promote the development of bacteria beneficial to the intestine.

Unlike starch, inulin is not digestible by the enzymes of the human intestine (amylases) and is therefore considered to be a "carbohydrate". fiber soluble food. And that's the difference between a starchy vegetable and a fibrous vegetable. This is an extremely important point, which we'll come back to shortly, because it's the basis on which you can adapt your diet to avoid unwanted fat gain.

Coming back to salsify, it does indeed originate from the eastern Mediterranean basin, and the Greeks and Romans considered it a medicinal plant. It has benefits for muscle contraction and digestion. It regulates cholesterol levels and protects against cardiovascular disease.

Parsnips:

A close cousin of the carrot, the parsnip is one of those forgotten vegetables making a comeback. This vegetable is native to the Mediterranean basin and the Caucasus. It has diuretic, depurative, antiviral and antioxidant benefits. It is said to have beneficial effects on the immune system, and is considered a health food par excellence.

But beware: like most root vegetables, parsnips are relatively high in starch: they contain around 5.5g of starch per 100 grams. It is therefore not suitable for a purely dietary diet. ketogenicIt's a welcome addition to a low-to-moderate carbohydrate diet. By way of comparison, it contains 3.5 times more complex carbohydrates (i.e. starch) than broccoli, which is renowned for its very low energy content.

Horseradish:

Once again, this is an ancient vegetable, known since antiquity to the Egyptians and Greeks for its medicinal virtues. It's rich in vitamin C, with benefits for muscle contraction and blood pressure regulation, and is said to have antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties.

Like other root vegetables, it is relatively high in carbohydrates (9.54g per 100g, including almost 8g of sugars, VS 2.54g per 100g of broccoli, including 1.50g of sugars).

 

2. Stem vegetables

Stem vegetables are characterized by the fact that their underground part, transformed into a tuber to store the plant's reserves, is a stem rather than a root, and this stem is edible and eaten as a vegetable. This stem can be either a rhizome (underground stem) or a stolon (creeping aerial stem).

Unlike root vegetables, stem vegetables are low in calories and starch, so there's no particular dietary significance to them, apart from the fact that they provide a high-quality supply of vitamins and minerals.

By extension, we can also speak of stem vegetables for vegetables whose stems are eaten but whose roots are roots in their own right.

Asparagus:

Originally from the eastern Mediterranean basin, asparagus was first eaten wild by the Egyptians and Greeks. Later, the Romans developed its cultivation. In Europe, it was long enjoyed by kings and princes, then later in the 19th century by a wealthy elite, before being democratized in the early 20th century. Today, it is highly fashionable among athletes, low-carb dieters, chefs and enlightened gourmets.

Rich in vitamins A, B9 and PP, phosphorus and manganese. It is an excellent source of folateseveral phenolic compounds, the main ones being flavonoids (mainly rutin) and phenolic acids (including hydroxycinnamic acid). These compounds are said to have antioxidant properties, i.e. they reduce the damage caused by free radicals in the body.

However, a word of caution is in order for people with weak kidneys or gout: they should abstain from or moderate their consumption, as asparagus contains purines, which turn into uric acid and can impair kidney function.

Celery:

It is used for its leaves (used as an aphrodisiac), seeds and stems. It originated in the Mediterranean region. It's an excellent source of potassium, vitamin C, B6 and folic acid. It is said to be diuretic, depurative, digestive aid, remineralizing and antiscorbutic.

Ginger:

Ginger is a vegetable that has aroused great interest among people from the time of its discovery, probably over 6,000 years ago, right up to the present day. Originating in India and China, it is one of the earliest spices the Mediterranean basin, probably thanks to the Phoenicians via the Red Sea.

Ginger consists of two parts. Its aerial part, edible by the way, and its underground part, which is precisely its stem (the rhizome) filled with food reserves.

Rich in zinc, beta-carotene, vitamins B and C, it is known to be antibacterial, antiallergic, anti-inflammatory and fever-regulating. It is a famous antioxidant, particularly when eaten with garlic or onion, two other plants renowned for their medicinal virtues.

Lastly, it is known for its beneficial effects on digestion and is effective in cases of gastrointestinal disorders.

It has a particularly pronounced taste, so we recommend using it sparingly in your dishes.

Cardoon:

Cardoon is an ancient vegetable closely related to the artichoke. A Mediterranean met par excellence, it is relatively bitter and provides a good dose of vitamin B9, fiber, potassium and calcium. It was an important vegetable in Antiquity, and is now a staple of Central European gourmet dishes.

Kohlrabi:

Probably originating in southern Italy and Greece, kohlrabi has been adopted by the Germanic peoples since the Middle Ages. The ball formed by the swollen stem gives off a sweet, delicate aroma, and it's logically rich in fiber, as well as vitamin C, B9, potassium, calcium and antioxidants, all for a very modest caloric intake.

Leeks:

The leek is a very famous plant in Europe, cultivated for its pseudo-stems. Possibly originating in Europe or the Middle East, it has been domesticated and cultivated in temperate zones. It was appreciated by the Egyptians in the 3rd millennium BC, and features in one of the oldest recipes from Mesopotamia. It was then cultivated in Greece and ancient Rome,

A source of antioxidants, vitamin C and B9, it is said to have a protective effect against certain cancers and is an excellent diuretic.

Fennel:

The latest Mediterranean plant, fennel is used as both a vegetable and an aromatic. It is recognized as an ally in the treatment of digestive disorders and inflammation of the respiratory tract. Traditionally, it has been used to treat flatulence, menstrual pain and to stimulate lactation.

Swiss chard:

This vegetable, the benefits of which were discussed in the list of leafy greens, is a vegetable whose stalk is also consumed. Rich in flavonoids, this vegetable is an excellent antioxidant, and has shown positive effects on insulin secretion. It contains vitamin K (anticoagulant), vitamin A (vision, protection against infection, bone health), vitamin C (antioxidant, bone health), iron (red blood cell formation, blood oxygenation, cell production), copper (red blood cell formation, antioxidant), magnesium (bone and muscle health) and B-complex vitamins (energy, mood).

 

3. Bulb vegetables

Here, too, it's a question of semantics when it comes to bulb vegetables, which can be lumped together with root vegetables in general, but which can also be distinguished as a "bulb vegetable", since the base of the leaves is consumed to store reserves, rather than the root or stem. A bulb is a vertical underground stem resulting from the tuberization of leaves or leaf sheaths, and used as a food storage organ by a dormant plant. This mainly concerns alliaceous plants (garlic, onion, shallot, etc.), renowned for their medicinal virtues.

Studies suggest that eating vegetables from the alliaceae family (onion, garlic, shallot, chives, green onion, leek) may have a protective effect against stomach and intestinal cancers.

1/ Garlic

Along with the onion, for example, it is one of the "superfoods" of the Mediterranean diet, and we'll be devoting an entire chapter to it in the large section dedicated to foods that should never be ignored. Like the onion, it's a vegetable that turns into a bulb and is mainly used as a condiment to enhance the taste of dishes.

Native to Central Asia, it has been used for 5,000 years in the Mediterranean region, particularly in Egypt. It is known scientifically for its lipid-lowering, anticoagulant, antihypertensive, chelating (against certain heavy metals and toxins), antioxidant, immunostimulant and anti-cancer effects.

Most of garlic's protective effects seem to lie in its sulfur-containing substances, which protect against the formation of nitrosaminesintestinal bacteria carcinogenic made from nitrates and nitrites which are found in significant quantities in products derived from modern agriculture. This is precisely where garlic, and onions too, seem to be a formidable anti-cancer weapon.

Garlic also contains polyphenols, vitamin C, calcium, magnesium and magnesium. seleniumand many other protective micro-nutrients. It's a staple of the Mediterranean and South Asian diets, typical of the blue zones.

2/ Onions

The onion is one of the oldest vegetables in the world. Onion varieties range from white to brown, red to purple.

It contains potassium, vitamin C, folic acid and vitamin E. vitamin B6. It is said to be diuretic, antibiotic, antiscorbutic and stimulant. As we mentioned at the beginning of this chapter, it is rich in polyphenols, with its share of antioxidant benefits. It is said to promote good cardiovascular health and help prevent certain cancers.

The first traces of onion production come from Mesopotamia, and its cultivation then spread to ancient Egypt, Greece, the Roman Empire and the rest of Europe and the world. It was certainly eaten in ancient China too.

3/ Shallots

The shallot is a vegetable used as a condiment, like onion or garlic. It is thought to have originated in the Middle East, as its scientific name suggests: allium ascalonicum, meaning "garlic of Ascalon", Ascalon being an ancient port in Palestine.

Persians and Egyptians considered it a sacred plant 2,000 years ago. Like other vegetables in the alliaceae family, shallots are said to have considerable general health benefits. It is said to have a beneficial effect on the cardiovascular system, is diuretic, facilitates intestinal transit and hence digestion, improves blood sugar levels and has antimicrobial properties. It is rich in minerals (potassium, calcium, magnesium, iron and zinc) and vitamins C and B.

4/ Leeks: stem vegetables or bulbs

Leeks belong to the same botanical family as onions and garlic, but by extension are sometimes classed as "stem vegetables" in culinary terms, since their leaves are considered to be a kind of stem.

This species may have originated in the Middle East, where it may have been domesticated, as mentioned above. In terms of health, leeks are an excellent source of antioxidants, vitamin C and B9, and are said to have beneficial properties for immunity, the nervous system, cell renewal and the body in general, not to mention possible anti-cancer virtues.

5/ Chives

Chives are the smallest member of the onion family, cultivated for their long, wiry green leaves, each stemming from a bulb buried at ground level. Used as an aromatic plant, it is rich in antioxidants, vitamin K and vitamin C, which help combat cardiovascular disease and cell aging.

Given the limited quantities generally consumed, chives contribute modestly, but in concert with all the other vegetables, to better overall health.

6/ Green onion

Green onions contain phytochemicals such as flavonoids, powerful antioxidants that help neutralize free radicals. Their action could therefore help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and certain cancers.

The white part of the green onion is used like an onion, while the green part is generally considered a fine herb.

Green onions are thought to have originated in China - they are often found as a decorative flavoring in Asian dishes - and are sometimes mistakenly called "shallots" in North America.

In France, it's sometimes called cébette, jeune oignon, oignon frais or even oignon nouveau, but it would be more accurate to agree on a single name: green onion.

 

D. Mushrooms

Mushrooms are not, strictly speaking, vegetables. They lack chlorophyll and are therefore incapable of photosynthesis, and they feed on organic matter that constitutes or has constituted other organisms. Mushrooms are therefore a plant kingdom in their own right.

Nevertheless, we've included them in the list of Mediterranean vegetables, because they can and are ultimately eaten as vegetables by humans, and have roughly similar energy values, i.e. they don't cause energy or insulin spikes since they're low in carbohydrates and calories, and they're high in fiber.

They are generally rich in iron, minerals and B vitamins, and are a good source of antioxidants.

Mushrooms are a great addition to any dish, and the best way to enjoy them is to choose from a wide range of varieties, each with its own benefits.

 

E. The fruit-vegetables "kings" of the Cretan diet

There are foods that, although considered vegetables, are botanically fruits, but fruits that are very low in sugar and high in fiber. It's partly for this reason that fruit and vegetables as a whole are recommended for good healthwhether in the Mediterranean diet or in general.

We tend to lump them together, because some fruits are more like vegetables in nutritional and practical termsIt's better to choose these "fruit-vegetables" rather than too many sweet fruits on a daily basis.

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In other words, when you hear that you have to eat five fruits and vegetablesIf you're on the go, opt for the vegetables and fruit-vegetables we list below, reserving sweet fruit for moments of pleasure (especially snacks), and in moderate quantities.

The reason these foods are botanically considered fruits is that they contain the plant's seeds. This characteristic makes them fruits, and has nothing to do with their higher or lower sugar content.

Here, then, are the famous "king" fruit-vegetables typical of the Mediterranean climate, or which have made their appearance in Mediterranean cuisine, and which are in practice related to vegetables.

1/ Eggplant

Native to Asia or Mesopotamia, it was introduced to the Mediterranean by the Arabs. Rich in potassium, manganese, copper, selenium and B vitamins. A good candidate for the anti-obesity diet.

2/ Tomatoes

Originally from north-western South America, the tomato has become a staple of gastronomy in many countries, particularly in the Mediterranean basin. It's a source of vitamins A, B, C and E, and of trace elements (potassium) that are good for kidney function. It could prevent certain cancers, and is beneficial to the cardiovascular system.

3/ The lawyer

Originally from Mexico, the avocado has more or less conquered the Mediterranean, and Morocco, Spain, France, Italy and Israel have become producer countries. It can be eaten on its own, or with a vinaigrette, lemon, shrimp, salmon, tuna, eggs or salad. The avocado is a very high-fat fruit, and is one of the key foods in a healthy diet, as recommended in this guide. It is an excellent glycemic regulator, making it a valuable ally in the fight against diabetes. It's an excellent source of vitamin Ewith antioxidant properties. It is also rich in unsaturated fats, which are excellent for health. Finally, it has a positive effect on bones and joints, as it slows down the degradation of cartilage. It's a flagship food in the low-carb diet, and we'll be devoting a separate chapter to it, given the importance of its nutritional properties.

4/ The olive

The fruit of the olive tree, emblematic of the Mediterranean, olives can be eaten as a condiment or used to make olive oil. A source of antioxidants, olives are said to combat hypertension and cardiovascular disease, and are anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial and even anti-cancerous. Olive monounsaturated fatty acids are associated with abdominal fat loss, improved insulin sensitivity and better digestion. As for olive oil, it needs no introduction, and is one of the superfoods featured in this guide, and characteristic of a diet rich in good fats.

5/ Gherkin

Used as a condiment, it's a good antioxidant, rich in minerals, vitamin B9 and pro-vitamin A. Probiotic, and aids digestion.

6/ Cucumber

Belonging to the same species as the gherkin, the cucumber is native to India, and has been cultivated in Western Asia, and thus in the Mediterranean, for over 3,000 years. Moisturizing, anti-anxiety, source of antioxidants, rich in vitamin K.

7/ Chillies and peppers

Originally from South America, the different types of chillies spread to Asia, Africa and the Arab-Muslim world via Europe. It is a main condiment in many tropical, Mediterranean, African and Asian cuisines. It is said to have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and anticancer properties, and capsaicin regulates blood sugar levels.

8/ Rhubarb

Native to Asia, this fruit lends itself well to savoury dishes. Source of vitamin C, calcium, potassium and antioxidants.

9/ Squash and zucchini (pumpkin, pumpkin, pumpkin, butternut squash...) :

Antioxidant, anti-cholesterol, rich in vitamins and minerals.

Although some vegetables & fruit Although tomatoes, peppers and avocados originally come from South America, they are regularly served in some Mediterranean countries, and fit perfectly into the Mediterranean diet.

Olives, avocados and eggplants are all three fruits that are rich in monounsaturated fats, and are de facto star foods in the a diet low in carbohydrates and rich in good fatsas recommended in this guide.

 

Vegetables rich in fiber VS Vegetables rich in starch and sugars

Before we can look at how many vegetables we should be eating, we need to know which vegetables we're talking about. To answer this absolutely central question, allow me to make an extremely important aside.

A reminder about carbohydrates and fibre

We saw in the chapter on carbohydrates and fibre, and particularly at the end of the chapter on dietary fibreA central point is the difference between fiber - which is low in calories, even though it is a complex carbohydrate - and all other carbohydrates. To sum up:

  • fibers are not, or only slightly, absorbed by the body, and therefore cause little or no glycemic and insulin response. On the contrary, they have a beneficial effect in that they slow down the absorption of simple and complex carbohydrates, and therefore help to spare the insulin hormone and regulate blood sugar levels, with all the positive effects this has on the body.
  • carbohydrates (excluding fibers) are relatively quick energy providers. They are found mainly in the form of fructose or glucose (the so-called fast sugars, found in fruit or sweet-tasting processed products, for example) or in the form of starch, which are complex carbohydrates found mainly in starchy foods.
  • Finally, starch and complex carbohydrates are digested more slowly, and the lower the glycemic index (corresponding to the energy peak) of a starch-rich product, the slower and more controlled the energy peak, which is preferable for the body outside the context of intense, brief sporting performance.

The key to a healthy diet is therefore to control starch intake, because as we saw in the big chapter on low-carb diets, a sedentary person doesn't necessarily need excessive carbohydrate intake throughout the day. Let's take the example of a typical day in the "standard" Western diet of a person who doesn't necessarily pay attention to diet:

  • Breakfast is often based on croissants, butter, bread and jam, rich in both carbohydrates and fats.
  • Lunch sometimes consists largely of French fries, bread and sugary drinks.
  • Sometimes there's a snack based on cereal bars or pastries.
  • Dinner is sometimes alcohol, pizza (wheat-rich pasta) or wheat pasta.

However, this type of diet is not necessarily bad because it involves processed products, or because the calorie intake is too high. Above all, it can be deleterious insofar as the carbohydrate intake, i.e. the body's "preferred energy", is too high in relation to the actual expenditure of the individual in question. What's more, this high carbohydrate intake causes blood sugar levels to spike, prompting insulin to regulate blood sugar levels and bring them down as quickly as possible. In response, blood sugar levels fall back to very low levels, resulting in sudden hunger and the urge to snack again.

All this is already explained in the chapter on low-carb foods on the one hand, and the one devoted to carbohydrates.

The challenge is to control your intake of non-fiber carbohydrates. Indeed, the whole point of training in nutrition lies in understanding the consequences of what we eat, so that we can take as much gustatory pleasure as intellectual pleasure. So the question is: how much carbohydrate should I take to match my usual energy expenditure?

While it's impossible for us to answer this question for you, since it's a case-by-case question, you need to test your own starch intake to see what impact it has on your figure and your general health. For those on a low-carb diet, this is often around 80 to 120g of carbohydrates per day, whereas on a ketogenic diet, it's under 50g.

To return to the subject of vegetables in the Mediterranean diet, and to explain why all this is related, there are some vegetables in this list that are precisely more or less starchy. Of course, most of them are rich in dietary fiber, and will have very little impact on your calorie intake. But some vegetables - and legumes, which we'll deal with in a later chapter - should be classified separately, and put on your list of "starchy" foods, not fibrous vegetables that you can eat without paying attention.

The list of starchy vegetables

This is the part we're interested in. It's a good idea to know this short list of the vegetables with the highest carbohydrate content (excluding fiber), which is very easy to remember, so that you can control the calorie and energy intake of your vegetables. In this sense, not all fruit and vegetables are created equal.. Not that some are more important than others - they all complement each other in a holistic approach - but some should be considered more as starchy foods, while others are simple vegetable accompaniments that add volume to your plate, taste, vitamins, minerals and polyphenols, without causing any energy consequences.

In practice, therefore, we advise you to regulate your intake of starchy vegetables, eating them once or twice a day at most, and sometimes doing without if you don't need to, but that depends on each individual. However, it's not a question of going to another extreme and doing without them, but simply of knowing how to dose them according to how we feel and the energy we need to get from them.

Please note that these are the vegetables with the highest starch content, and that we're not talking about legumes and cereals, which are inherently rich in starch, and which we'll cover in the chapter dedicated to them.

Nutritional information varies from source to source, but gives an idea of the calorie and energy content of these vegetables.

  • Potatoes : 

It contains 78% of water, around 13 grams of carbohydrates per 100 grams of potato, and more than 90% of these carbohydrates are in the form of starch, i.e. around 14 grams. It contains very little fiber (2 grams) and a tiny amount of simple sugars (glucose, sucrose and fructose). It is one of the most energy-dense vegetables. In energy terms, the potato amounts to 73 kcal.

Here are the glycemic indexes for potatoes per 100 grams, depending on the cooking method:

Steamed: GI 65.
Mashed: GI 90.
Baked: GI 95.

For information, the glycemic load of French fries is around 30/100, whereas the glycemic load of a baked potato with the skin is only 13.

  • Sweet potato :

It contains 78% of water, 13 grams of carbohydrates, half of which is starch, leaving 6 grams of simple sugars. It contains 3 grams of fiber. The sweet potato and the potato are therefore virtually equivalent in terms of energy intake, although the sweet potato is slightly richer in simple sugars. It contains 79 kcal per 100 grams.

The glycemic index of baked sweet potatoes is 61, compared with 95 for potatoes. In this respect, sweet potatoes are becoming an increasingly popular alternative to potatoes, especially for athletes. However, there are conflicting opinions, with some believing that the sweet potato and the potato are virtually identical in terms of nutrition and blood sugar levels, but that it's the cooking method and product combinations that play a role, since the potato is often fried in low-quality vegetable oils and associated with junk food, giving it a bad reputation.

  • Parsnips :

As we saw earlier, parsnips contain over 10 grams of carbohydrates, of which around 5 grams are fast sugars per 100 grams of food, the rest coming from slower-release complex carbohydrates. It is generally avoided in a purely ketogenic diet, but will be welcome for its slightly sweet taste and health benefits in a healthy, overall carbohydrate-moderate, Mediterranean diet.

  • Yam :

Like sweet potatoes, yams are a carbohydrate- and starch-rich alternative to potatoes. It contains between 23 and 27 grams of carbohydrates per 100 grams, including almost 70% of starch, making it a kind of starchy vegetable.

Here again, it's all a question of objective and moderation. While yams do indeed have a higher energy value than the average vegetable, they are still rich in fiber and nutrients, with a glycemic load of only 4.12 for a 100-gram portion, which is low.

  • Cassava :

Cassava is the vegetable with the highest carbohydrate content: 38 grams per 100 grams of food. This makes it a real starchy vegetable, even if, once again, if we compare cassava to white rice (which contains 78 grams of carbohydrates per 100 grams of raw white rice), cassava remains a good alternative to the starchy foods most widely consumed as a source of energy.

To be on the safe side, if you're sedentary and tend to put on weight easily, avoid eating cassava too often in the evening or on days when you're not very active.

 

Sugar-rich vegetables

As far as these vegetables are concerned, it's certainly not a question of banishing them, but simply of bearing in mind that if you want to reduce your sugar intake on a particular day, the ideal thing would be to opt for green vegetables, especially at the end of the day for example, rather than this type of vegetable, which is among the sweetest, in other words the richest in simple sugars.

However, it's important to remember that, although their glycemic index is high, their glycemic load is actually low, and I refer you to the chapter dedicated to glycemia in order to understand these concepts. In other words, their effect on the body is only relative, and their consumption will not have a comparable effect with industrial sweet foods or even fruits such as bananas or grapes, which contain more than twice as many simple sugars as the foods below.

  • Beet :

The bulk of this root vegetable's energy intake comes from sucrose, which accounts for up to 90 % of its carbohydrate content. It's a simple sugar, so beet is almost like fruit in nutritional terms, all things considered.

On the other hand, there's very little starch (0.5g per 100g of food), but because of its high sucrose content, beet is not comparable to green vegetables such as broccoli or zucchinis, and is best eaten occasionally rather than daily and in reasonable quantities.

In fact, beet contains 9.10 grams of carbohydrates per 100 grams, including 6.76 grams of sugars. By comparison, the banana, one of the sweetest fruits, contains almost 20 grams of carbohydrates per 100 grams, of which almost 16 grams are sugars.

  • Carrot :

The carrot is also a very sweet vegetable: 5.73 grams of carbohydrates per 100 grams, including around 5.10 grams of simple sugars, mainly sucrose (3.80 g per 100 g), glucose (0.70 g per 100 g) and fructose (0.60 g per 100 g). If you want to avoid any intake of fast sugars in the evening, for example, you can avoid eating too much of them (over 200 grams, for example), but this is obviously on the margin.

 

How many vegetables should I eat?

As discussed at the beginning of this chapter, there is no real conformity in terms of the quantity of vegetables, in the sense that the objective, if we start to look at the benefits of theMediterranean dietand healthy eating in general, we quickly understand that the aim here is to reintroduce vegetables frequently to our plates, and to give them a real place.

In practice, eating Mediterranean-style means include a portion of vegetables at least once a day which can take a variety of forms:

  • Raw vegetables lettuce, lamb's lettuce, romaine, arugula and lettuce in general.
  • Green vegetables bell pepper, zucchini, carrot, broccoli, artichoke, asparagus, spinach, fennel, etc...
  • All types of cabbage cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, romanesco, broccoli, green, white and red cabbage.

In practice, this means bring their share of vegetables to the mealwhich can sometimes even be the main accompaniment to a proteininstead of a starch. This combination can be used, for example, when we're trying to lose a little body fat, or when our current energy expenditure is relatively low, or during the evening meal, when an energy intake in the form of carbohydrates is often unnecessary, except in a few exceptional cases linked to practising a sport, for example. If such "low-carb" meals tend to be repeated, we should take care to compensate for this lack of carbohydrates with certain foods rich in good fatssuch as olive oil or avocado, and/or a protein rich in omega-3, such as fish.

In the case of a balanced diet between the three macronutrients, and therefore typically Mediterranean, which would bring its share of carbohydrates, we could simplify things to the extreme by recommending half a plate in the form of vegetables, a quarter in the form of protein, and a quarter in the form of carbohydrates, which we'd prefer to be healthy and low GI (like legumes, for example).

But beware of too many vegetablesThis is especially important if you're not used to eating them! Choose unprocessed vegetablesThey should be eaten raw (as opposed to pre-salted), steamed or lightly cooked in coconut or olive oil at low intensity, and not too frequently in soup, except on hot days.

Now that vegetables hold no secrets for you, let's move on to spices, herbs and other ingredients. condimentsThey are often neglected, yet are invaluable for their nutritional and culinary benefits. This is the subject of the next chapter...

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