Hummus, tomato-cucumber salad, extra-virgin olive oil … these and other staple foods on virtually every Israeli table undoubtedly helped propel the country to #1 on a new ranking of countries with the lowest rate of diet-related deaths worldwide and #10 on the 2019 Bloomberg Healthiest Country Index.

Although many Israelis do have some unhealthy eating habits – too much char-grilled meat, processed foods, sweets and deep-fried foods – the overall picture is rosy compared to most countries’ diets and especially the SAD (standard American diet).

And it will likely get even better after the Ministry of Health publishes its newest guidelines for healthful eating emphasizing the traditional “Mediterranean diet” approach that most Israelis already embrace.

That’s our first of 13 reasons you should eat like an Israeli.

11.Eating seasonally

In American supermarkets, you can find just about any kind of fruit or vegetable any time of the year because whatever is not in season is imported.

In Israel, much of the produce appears according to the local season – and while that may mean forgoing strawberries in summer and peaches in winter, it’s quite exciting when those items come to market ripe and fresh.

“Seasonality is very important,” says Berry. “Going to local markets for fruits and vegetables in season is just lovely.”

Strawberries for sale at Carnel Market in Tel Aviv in November. Photo by Moshe Shai/FLASH90

Nutritionists agree that produce retains more nutrients and flavor when it’s picked at the peak of freshness and quickly brought to market, rather than picked early and left to ripen on a long truck or boat journey.

Local seasonal produce needs less human intervention (such as pesticides and coatings) and less fuel to get to consumers, and is generally much cheaper.

But don’t worry: Israeli markets always have an abundance of year-round staples: onions, garlic, carrots, potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, celery, leafy greens, a variety of fruits and much more.

  1. Communal meals

Israelis enjoy eating in groups. Photo via Shutterstock.com

“The social aspect of eating is very important to health,” says Berry. “Communal meals are relaxed and convivial. Adults should involve the children, teaching them to make sensible choices within the Mediterranean framework, and showing them how to cook and cut salads.”

The Israeli lifestyle checks all those boxes. Large Shabbat dinners on Friday nights are held sacred even in the least religious of Jewish families, and it goes without saying that Passover seders, Rosh Hashana dinners and Yom Ha’atzmaut barbecues require hosts to borrow extra folding chairs to accommodate all the guests. Arab Israelis, too, are well known for serving bountiful communal meals to family, friends and newcomers alike.

  1. Forks over knives

Israel reportedly has the highest number of vegetarians and vegans per capita of any other country, and the latest research indicates this plant-based trend contributes to the country’s overall good health.

Consuming more fruits, veggies and whole grains, but less meat, is one of four factors (along with not smoking, staying lean and exercising 30 minutes daily) that “may help prevent — and in some cases even help treat or reverse — every single one of our fifteen leading causes of death, including high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, and more,” according to the Evidence-Based Eating Guide by American bestselling physician/author/speaker Dr. Michael Greger (How Not to Die).