Israel is ranked as one of the healthiest countries in the world and one of the main reasons for this is the country’s diet. A recent ranking of countries with the lowest rate of diet-related deaths ranked Israeli at No 1 and the country came in at No 10 on the 2019 Bloomberg Healthiest Country Index.
Most Israelis embrace the Mediterranean diet. It is at the base of the country’s way of eating. The Mediterranean diet encourages moderate amounts of fish and poultry, and a low intake of dairy products (such as cheese and yogurt), red and processed meat, and sweets. The Israeli staples of hummus, tomato and cucumber salad, and extra-virgin olive oil, tick all the right boxes.
In fact, you will find fresh salad as a part of nearly every Israeli meal, breakfast, lunch and supper. You will often hear of “Israeli Salad”, which in its most basic form is simply cucumber, tomatoes, seasoning, olive oil and lemon juice. Amazingly, according to the latest figures from the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics, each of Israel’s 8.9 million residents have access to an average of 152 kilograms of fruits and 154 kilograms of vegetables each year.
There is also evidence to suggest that Israeli’s fondness for a big breakfast contributes to their general health. If you have ever stayed at an Israeli hotel or been to a breakfast buffet then you will know what they involve. There will be mounds of vegetables, salads, eggs, breads, cheeses, and more. There are a number of Israeli studies showing the benefits of big breakfasts and it certainly seems that the population has taken them to heart. The studies have found that the benefits include supressing blood-sugar surges, easier weight loss, and it helps diabetics avoid insulin resistance.
Hummus is well known as a staple of Israeli cuisine and luckily, it too is a very healthy food. It is made from chickpeas, which are rich in protein, and it contains other healthy ingredients such as tahini, sea salt and lemon juice. The tahini element is also very healthy, it is full of minerals such as copper, manganese, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, iron, zinc, molybdenum, vitamin B1, selenium and dietary fibre.
You will also see a lot of pomegranates in Israel, in fact, it is one of the seven indigenous crops mentioned in the bible. The fruit’s seeds have been found to help protect against cancer, heart disease, to boost immunity, and reduce chronic inflammation. They have also been found to help with a number of conditions such as conjunctivitis, osteoarthritis and high cholesterol.
As you may have read elsewhere on this blog, Israelis love tomatoes. In fact, the country eats 140,000 tonnes of fresh tomatoes each year, and double that amount in other forms. The country also exports around 2,000 tonnes of tomatoes each year. One of the key components of tomatoes is lycopene, a carotenoid phytonutrient that has powerful antioxidant benefits for the heart, blood pressure, prostate, bones and skin.
There is much more that is healthy in the Israeli diet such as olive oil, which is full of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, dates, which protect against heart attacks, and even the snack Bamba, which helps prevent peanut allergies. Be sure to enjoy plenty of local produce while on your gap year in Israel, as it can only be good for you.