8 Mediterranean Diet Ingredients You Need in Your Pantry by Jackie Newgent, RDN, CDN

The Mediterranean diet is touted as one of the healthiest eating plans. Meals are plant-forward and based on whole foods, including vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, pulses (chickpeas, lentils, dry peas, and beans), whole grains, herbs, spices, and olive oil. The eating plan also includes moderate amounts of dairy foods (including yogurt), eggs, fish, and poultry. Small amounts of red meats and sweets can periodically be included, if you’d like.

8 Mediterranean Diet Ingredients You Need in Your Pantry But the Mediterranean diet is also part of the Mediterranean lifestyle. This lifestyle includes being physically active, enjoying meals with others, and drinking water. For those that drink alcohol, having wine in moderation can be part of the lifestyle, too.
Following a Mediterranean lifestyle may play a role in improving insulin sensitivity and reducing the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and obesity. Plus, eating a Mediterranean diet may help with keeping your eyes healthy—namely vegetables, fruits, fish, and olive oil—may curb the risk of diabetes-related retinopathy.
For cooking with staples of the Mediterranean diet, a well-stocked pantry is key. Along with plenty of herbs and spices, plan to stock these eight delicious diabetes-friendly and nutrient-rich foods.
1. Extra-virgin olive oil
Using polyphenol-rich extra-virgin olive oil daily may improve metabolic control in people with overweight and type 2 diabetes. Swap in olive oil in place over other fats like butter or other oils.
  • Drizzle onto foods, like hummus or cooked vegetables, just before serving.
  • Swap it in place of butter when mashing potatoes or scrambling eggs.
2. In-shell pistachios
Pistachios are a great plant-based protein. Plus, they may play a role in reduction of fasting blood glucose and are delicious.
  • Snack on them. Cracking open pistachio shells may slow you down during snack time—and the empty shells can act as a visual cue to help you eat mindfully.
  • Sprinkle pistachios onto salads, soups, and stews for contrasting color and crunch.
3. Tomatoes (can, carton, or jar)
Diced or crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, and other tomato products, like marinara sauce, all provide lycopene. This naturally occurring pigment makes tomatoes red and may contribute to protection against diabetes and obesity.
  • Add marinara sauce on eggplant or other vegetables during roasting.
  • Make a big pot of tomatoey veggie chili or Cajun grains for a gathering—or for enjoying over several days.
4. Dry lentils
Compared to eating starchy foods like pasta, lentils seem to help lower post-meal blood glucose and insulin response.
  • Try lentils in place of ground beef, like in zesty taco filling or comforting sloppy joes.
  • Prepare these pulses in an instant pot for a satisfying breakfast or brunch paired with spinach and poached eggs.
5. Chickpeas (can or carton)
As part of a nutrient-rich, wholesome eating plan, research finds chickpeas may  make it easier to manage your blood glucose thanks in part to their high fiber, protein, and low starch digestibility.  
6. Bulgur wheat
Eating more whole grains, in general, is associated with a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes, including insulin resistance, glucose regulation, and obesity.  
7. Tahini (sesame seed paste)
Studies have found that consuming sesame products, including tahini, could have a beneficial effect on fasting blood glucose and A1C1 levels.
  • Puree a gorgeous dip featuring tahini, roasted beets, and Greek yogurt.
  • Whisk a lemony-tahini dressing for a leafy salad, falafel sandwich, or a grain or pasta bowl.
8. Balsamic vinegar
Due to its bioactive compounds and impact on the digestion process, balsamic vinegar may improve glycemic response to carb-rich meals.

Related Articles

  • 5 Nutrition Tools You Need to Eat Healthier

    5 Nutrition Tools You Need to Eat Healthier

    Eating healthier can be a challenge and sometimes you just need a little extra help. With the right tools, you can make it easier to reach your health goals. Whether you're looking to manage your diabetes, lose weight, improve your overall health, or simply eat a more balanced diet, there are a variety of nutrition tools available to help you reach your goals. Here are five essential nutrition tools you won’t want to miss.

  • 4 Important Nutrients for Women

    4 Important Nutrients for Women

    Women’s bodies need a host of vitamins and minerals to stay healthy. While it’s easy to take supplements for everything from iron and calcium to vitamin D and magnesium, it’s good (and much more delicious) to start by eating foods that naturally contain essential nutrients.

  • 20 New Ideas to Eat More Produce at Every Meal

    20 New Ideas to Eat More Produce at Every Meal

    We’re sharing 20 new ideas to eat more fruits and vegetables in-season and year-round—just in time for spring. Keep an eye out for in-season picks at your local grocer or farmer’s market, such as artichokes, asparagus, broccoli, fennel, peas, radishes, snow peas, spinach, and apricots.

  • Meal Prep: Fall Harvest

    Meal Prep: Fall Harvest

    Everybody likes getting more for less! How about getting more meals from less recipes? With some strategic meal planning and prepping, you can create several days’ worth of meals with just a few recipes and one trip to the grocery store. You can even prepare all of the recipes at once and store meals in single serve containers in the fridge for grab-and-go meals all week.

  • Tips for Managing Diabetes and Heart Health

    Tips for Managing Diabetes and Heart Health

    Diabetes is a condition that affects the way the body processes blood glucose. High blood glucose levels (also known as hyperglycemia) can damage your body in different ways and make you more likely to develop heart disease or stroke. The good news is that you can help manage both—your cardiovascular risk and your diabetes—by eating smart and making healthy lifestyle choices.

  • How Losing Weight Helped Me with My Diabetes Journey

    How Losing Weight Helped Me with My Diabetes Journey

    Starting a weight-loss program isn’t the hard part–it’s staying on track that really takes some effort. Here’s how one woman makes it easier.

Recommended for You