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.