LIFE EX­PECTANCY: 81 for men, 84 for women

When most peo­ple think of the Mediter­ranean diet, they think of South­ern Europe – but, in­ter­est­ingly, Is­raelis also en­joy the longevity ben­e­fits of a sim­i­lar diet. The lo­cal cui­sine com­bines in­flu­ences from other Mid­dle Eastern coun­tries as well as Eastern Euro­pean and North African na­tions whose im­mi­grants helped pop­u­late Is­rael. Pop­u­lar dishes such as hum­mus, falafel, tab­bouleh (a bul­gur and pars­ley salad) and shak­shouka (a tomato, onion and egg dish) em­pha­size veg­eta­bles, legumes and fresh herbs. In fact, veg­eta­bles play such a cen­tral role in Is­rael’s diet that it’s very com­mon for Is­raelis to eat salad for break­fast! Is­rael’s lo­ca­tion near the sea and rel­a­tively close lo­ca­tion to the equa­tor (be­tween 29 to 33º N) also may con­trib­ute, as stud­ies show that liv­ing in coastal com­mu­ni­ties or at a dis­tance less than 40º from the equa­tor in­creases life ex­pectancy. The coun­try’s low al­co­hol con­sump­tion, ac­cess to qual­ity health care and 94% vac­ci­na­tion rate also fac­tor in.

This herbed salad with crunchy pita, known as fat­toush, is eaten widely around the coun­try. The root of the word fat­toush comes from the Ara­bic word fatta, which refers to the crum­bling of the flat­bread or pita. Tra­di­tion­ally made with stale pita, in this ver­sion the bread is lightly toasted and tossed with olive oil and a touch of the tart, acidic spice sumac be­fore it’s tossed into the salad.

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