What foods come to mind when you think of the heart-healthy Mediterranean diet? Even if you don’t know much about it, you probably know it favors whole foods like fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, beans and legumes — and plenty of fish.
Animal proteins, such as chicken or beef, are allowed in moderation, but it’s recommend you eat fish at least twice a week! If that seems like a lot (and for many of us, it does), here’s why fish is such an important part of the Mediterranean diet, plus 5 easy and delicious recipes to get you started.
Why Fish Is the Star Protein of the Mediterranean Diet
It’s all about the omega-3s. Fish such as salmon, tuna, mackerel, and sardines are rich sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Theses healthy fats are crucial for brain and eye health. They also support heart health, aid in weight management, and may even help with anxiety and depression.
To get even more granular, there are actually three different types of omega-3s: ALA (alpha-linolenic acid), DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid). ALA is the most common type and it’s found in plants. While it’s useful to the body, it’s DHA and EPA that provides the most benefits. And, you guessed it, these are mostly found in fish.
5 Mediterranean Diet Fish Recipes to Try
While the Mediterranean diet emphasizes eating fish, not all fish are created equal. In otherwise, this is not a hall pass to eat fish that’s battered and fried. (Sorry!) Fried food, no matter what it is, contains a fair amount of less-healthy fats, negating the good ones. Instead, opt for baked, broiled, grilled, or pan-seared fish, cooked with heart-healthy olive oil to get all of its great benefits.
Need some inspiration? Here are a few ideas.
- Pan-Seared Salmon with Spinach from Julia’s Album
- Grilled Mackerel with Sicilian Caper-Tomato Salsa from Food & Wine
- Mediterranean Tuna Steaks from How to Feed a Loon
- 3o-Minute Mediterranean Fish Skillet from Laughing Spatula
- Easy Mediterranean Baked Fish from Midwest Foodie