Growing up with two Italian parents, we often had loads of fruit in the house. I have fond memories of holidays when big bowls brimming with apples, citrus fruit, grapes, dried figs or dates would appear for dessert. I didn’t know it then, but I was raised on a Mediterranean diet. Below are a few of the more common fruits you’ll discover in Mediterranean cuisine and the perks of their regular consumption.
Apples- the beauty of apples is their long shelf life and the many varieties available. From sweet to tart to crunchy and crisp, apples can be eaten solo or paired with nuts and cheese for a snack or dessert. Toss them in a salad or grain dish if you like. Or slice them and pair them with Greek yogurt as a snack or dessert.
Try this apple yogurt plate made with Greek yogurt, walnuts, honey, and apples: Apple Yogurt Plate
High in fiber, an apple a day has been found to reduce the risk of stroke.
Apricots- although apricots originated in China, they eventually migrated to Europe and are a staple in the Mediterranean diet. They can be eaten fresh or consumed as dried fruit. A good source of beta-carotene and potassium, apricots are also high in fiber and vitamin C.
Dates- in ancient times, dates were offered as a sign of hospitality. Sweet, chewy dates often mimic the flavor of caramel. They are often stuffed with coconut or bleu cheese for dessert. Dates are not only delicious, but they’re also a great source of fiber and potassium as well as magnesium and calcium.
Figs- known as the “fruit of the Gods”, figs are native to the Middle East and are quite popular in Mediterranean cuisine. The fruit from a fig is actually an inverted flower that blooms inside a fleshy structure. Figs are a good source of fiber and potassium and can be eaten fresh or dried. Dried figs are often chopped and added to salads, grains or other dishes.
Make a Mediterranean Fruit plate for dessert by mixing fresh and dried fruits on a small attractive plate and serving family-style. Or download this recipe handout for Apple Fig Compote.
Grapefruit- grapefruit gets its name as it grows in clusters, like grapes but is a cross between an orange and a pomelo. It’s one of the healthiest fruits you can eat. Like other citrus family fruits, grapefruit is a good source of soluble fiber, antioxidants, vitamin C and beta-carotene. Make a citrus cup with fresh grapefruit and orange segments.
Grapes- grapes were initially introduced by Spanish explorers about 300 years ago. There are over 8,000 varieties of grapes including large “globe” grapes to red, white and tiny purple concord grapes. Grapes can be paired with cheese or frozen for a delightful summer snack. Add to chicken or tuna salad or mixed greens. Grapes contain fiber as well as antioxidants that help reduce disease risk.
Oranges- similar to apples, an orange a day may reduce the risk of stroke. High in potassium and vitamin C, oranges are a healthy addition to the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet. Oranges can be peeled and eaten or squeezed into fresh juice and added to smoothies.
Oranges go great in salads! Download a spinach-orange-salad handout now.
Pears- pears are a work of art! Native to Asia and Europe, there are over 3,000 varieties worldwide. Pears are highly versatile and can be used in salads or baked goods as well as a between-meal snack with Greek yogurt or nuts. Pears are an excellent source of fiber, which helps curb appetite.
Submitted by Lisa Andrews, MEd, RD, LD
Lisa Andrews, MEd, RD, LD, is a registered dietitian and owner of Sound Bites Nutrition in Cincinnati. She shares her clinical, culinary, and community nutrition knowledge through cooking demos, teaching, and freelance writing. Lisa is a regular contributor to Food and Health Communications and Today’s Dietitian and is the author of the Healing Gout Cookbook, Complete Thyroid Cookbook, and Heart Healthy Meal Prep Cookbook. Her line of food pun merchandise, Lettuce beet hunger, supports those suffering food insecurity in Cincinnati. For more information, visit her website: https://soundbitesnutrition.com/