The Secret Ingredient You Need for the Mediterranean Diet

Discover the secret weapon for a successful Mediterranean diet.

From its heart-healthy benefits to possibly reducing the risk of certain cancers, the Mediterranean diet is one of the most delicious ways to eat your way to good health. And while many of the benefits found in this diet are due to the fact it emphasizes fruit, fresh vegetables, legumes and lean proteins like seafood and poultry, there’s another reason why the Mediterranean way is so healthy.

We’ll let you in on the Mediterranean diet’s zero-salt, zero-calorie, zero-fat secret: It’s all about the herbs and spices.

The Most Popular Mediterranean Herbs and Spices

The Mediterranean includes Turkey, Egypt and parts of northwest Africa, along with Spain, southern France, Italy and Greece. That’s a lot of different cuisines to take inspiration from! Many of the herbs and other seasonings that crop up here are familiar to us. We’ve all sprinkled a bit of fresh thyme over a roast or added chopped basil as the finishing touch on a grilled pizza. There are a variety of herbs used across the different Mediterranean cuisines.

Here are some of the most popular:

  • Basil
  • Oregano
  • Parsley
  • Thyme
  • Rosemary
  • Sage
  • Bay leaf
  • Lavender
  • Marjoram
  • Borage

Don’t forget about herb mixes like herbes de Provence and bouquet garni which are used in dishes across the south of France.

For flavorful spices used to season dishes across the Mediterranean, you’ll want to check out the following:

  • Saffron
  • Paprika
  • Sumac
  • Cumin
  • Za’atar
  • Pepper
  • Fennel
  • Cinnamon

This is by no means a complete list, but something to get you started. Check out our guide to using fresh herbs, as well!

Stocking these herbs and spices in your pantry is a great way to ramp up the flavor in your cooking without having to rely on salt, butter and heavy sauces. They’re perfect for creating quick and healthy dinners to please the whole family.

What’s more, many of them are brimming with antioxidants and have other health-boosting properties. Who could say no to that?

Use Herbs in These Fresh Mediterranean Recipes
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Camille Berry
Part of the third generation in a family of restaurateurs, Camille was born with a passion for cooking and food. She embarked on a career in hospitality where she excelled as a sommelier and wine director. This hospitality experience has given her a wealth of first-hand knowledge about how to pair all manner of drinks with food—plus some serious kitchen skills. These days, she's hung up her wine key in favor of a pen and covers all aspects of food and drink.