Why you should add more Lebanese food to your diet

If you love hummus and baba ganoush, you already have a taste for the ‘other’ Mediterranean diet. Here’s why Lebanese food is among the world’s healthiest cuisines.

Think of a healthy Mediterranean diet and your mind might naturally turn to Italian and Greek foods.

But you may not know Lebanese cuisine has plenty of the same components, plus spice-laden dishes that will set your tastebuds soaring.

What is a Lebanese diet?

Dietitians Australia spokesperson and dietitian Felicity Curtain says much of a Lebanese diet is based around fruit and vegetables, nuts, seeds, whole grains and olive oil as a main source of fat.

Staples of a Lebanese diet include:

  • Tabbouleh
  • Falafel
  • Fresh seafood
  • Poultry
  • Small serves of red meat
  • Vegetarian dishes
  • Legumes
  • Baba ganoush
  • Hummus
  • Mint
  • Yoghurt
  • Vine leaves

“Lots of foods that we would typically associate with Lebanese food and cooking do tend to be cornerstones of a healthy diet,” Felicity says.

“What is great about Lebanese food is that it does tend to be home cooking, a lot of traditional ways of cooking and eating and also growing your own food.”

Why Lebanese food is so good for you

Dietitian Dr Anika Rouf says there’s no shortage of chickpeas in the Lebanese diet, and these budget-friendly legumes pack a nutritional punch.

“Chickpeas are great – they’re a legume, so it’s counting towards your plant protein, and also a wholegrain,” she says.

“It also has dietary fibre, so it’s great for bowel health.”

Dr Rouf says chickpeas can be used as a substitute for meat, and are slowly digested, which is particularly beneficial for people with diabetes.

It’s easy to use chickpeas to whip up hummus at home, and enjoy with some healthy veggie sticks.

The benefits of olive oil

Dr Rouf says extra virgin olive oil is another feature of a Lebanese diet, and is good for you as long as you don’t go overboard.

“It’s a great source of unsaturated fat and it’s high in antioxidants, so it can lower the risk of heart disease,” she says.

Dr Rouf says research has also shown olive oil can play a role in positively changing our gut microbiome.

Ditch the processed food

Dr Rouf says generally a Lebanese diet is healthier than an average Western diet – which typically has more processed food and fewer vegetables.

“It’s definitely a positive switch in the right direction,” she says.

Just avoid the temptation to stack your plate sky-high.

 Written by Larissa Ham.