The traditional diet of southern Italy has endured for generations. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be improved. Here are three new principles that can supercharge the benefits of the Mediterranean diet

Eat smaller seafood

Proponents of the Mediterranean diet have long endorsed eating more fish, but some choices are better than others. Smaller fish generally tend to be more sustainable, richer in beneficial omega-3 fatty acids, and lower in contaminants than other fish, says Tim Fitzgerald, a marine scientist with the Environmental Defense Fund.

Your move

Look for affordable fresh sardines and Atlantic mackerel, both listed on SASSI’s green list: www.wwfsassi.co.za. They’re delicious grilled and finished with olive
oil and a squeeze of lemon.

Use fresh olive oil

Experts recommended a daily dose of this heart-healthy oil. In fact, a European study found that olive oil’s antioxidants can raise levels of artery cleaning HDL cholesterol, says Dr María-Isabel Covas, head of the Cardiovascular Risk and Nutrition Research Group at the IMIM Research Institute in Spain. And the fresher the oil, the more potent its antioxidants.

Your move

Seek out new-crop olive oil and use it within a year, says Covas. Choose a dark glass bottle and store it away from the stove, since light and heat can degrade quality.

Buy local produce

The food closest to you might be healthiest. A Colorado State University study showed that storing potatoes lowers their cancer-fighting potency – even though their antioxidant content increases, says study author Dr Jairam Vanamala. And the effect probably applies to other produce, he says.

Your move

For fresh, healthy produce that’s not shrink-wrapped, hit a farmers’ market, says Vanamala. Find you’re a local farmers market in your area.