The Secret Ingredient You Need for the Mediterranean Diet

Discover the secret weapon for a successful Mediterranean diet.

Spices. Spice in spoon. Herbs. Curry, Saffron, turmeric, cinnamon and other on stone table. chili pepper around the spoonsLang Bart/Shutterstock

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. This easily digestible Mediterranean diet infographic cheat sheet will help you break it down.

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. Before your herbs wilt, make sure to check out the ultimate guide to storing your herbs. They’re perfect for creating quick and healthy dinners to please the whole family. In the same vein, keep your family’s bodies healthy with makeovers of favorite family recipes.

What’s more, many of them are brimming with antioxidants and have other health-boosting properties. Who could say no to that? Make sure you can always pull together a Mediterranean meal by having these staples loaded in your pantry.

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Camille Berry
Camille Berry is a food and drinks writer who divides her time between her native San Francisco and the UK. Her work has appeared on Wine Folly, Vinepair, The Back Label, in Spirited Virginia Magazine, and many other websites and publications.

Part of the third generation in a family of restaurateurs, Camille was practically born with a passion for cooking and food. She embarked on a career in hospitality where she excelled as a sommelier and wine director at several of San Francisco's most well-loved restaurants. This hospitality experience has endowed her with a wealth of first-hand knowledge of various cuisines, how to pair all manner of drinks with food, and entertaining – plus some serious kitchen skills. She is both a Certified Sommelier through the Court of Master Sommeliers and a Certified Wine Specialist through the Society of Wine Educators.