Fats In The Mediterranean Diet
The Mediterranean diet does not regard all fats as bad. In fact, the diet does not attempt to limit total fat consumption, but rather to make wise choices about the type of fat consumed. The Mediterranean diet is naturally low in saturated fat, such as that found in meat and butter. However it views two types of fat as healthy and places no restrictions on their consumption.
- Omega 3 fatty acids, which are found in fatty fish and some plant sources .
- Monounsaturated fat, which is abundant in olive oil, nuts, and avocado.
Because the Mediterranean diet emphasizes eating whole, natural foods, it is also extremely low in trans-fatty acids.
A Practical Guide To The Mediterranean Diet
- By Katherine D. McManus, MS, RD, LDN, Contributor
The Mediterranean diet has received much attention as a healthy way to eat, and with good reason. The Mediterranean diet has been shown to reduce risk of heart disease, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, certain cancers, depression, and in older adults, a decreased risk of frailty, along with better mental and physical function. In January, US News and World Report named it the best diet overall for the second year running.
Other Mediterranean Diet Foods
Find out how you can drink wine and keep your waistline.
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Will Mediterranean Diet Help You Lose Weight
The Mediterranean diet might help you lose weight. While some people fear that eating a diet like the Mediterranean diet that is relatively rich in fats will keep them fat, more and more research is suggesting the opposite is true. Of course, it depends on which aspects you adopt and how it compares to your current diet. If, for instance, you build a calorie deficit into your plan eating fewer calories than your daily recommended max or burning off extra by exercising you should shed some pounds. How quickly and whether you keep them off is up to you.
Heres a look at a few studies addressing weight loss on the Mediterranean diet:
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Can Following The Mediterranean Diet Help With Weight Loss
As a traditional way of eating for many cultures worldwide, the Mediterranean diet wasnt designed for weight loss. It just so happens that one of the healthiest diets around the globe is also good for keeping your weight down.
The American Journal of Medicine,U.S. News & World Report
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The Whole Diet Matters
But its not the olive oil alone thats beneficial. The Mediterranean diet is a whole eating pattern, and benefits are not based on eating only one or two nutrient-dense foods.
I dont believe there is one specific food or ingredient that is going to make or break your health,” says McDowell. “The Mediterranean diet works because of the focus on variety, real food, and plant-based foods like fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans, and olive oil.
It’s the pattern that matters most.
A true Mediterranean diet is based on vegetables, legumes, and olive oil, supplemented with moderate amounts of grains, dairy, fatty fish, and smaller amounts of poultry, says Paravantes-Hargitt. Fresh fruit is a typical daily dessert, and red meat is consumed a few times per month.
Evidence Of Health Benefits
Scientific research indicates that the Mediterranean diet can improve health and longevity.
- One example of this research is the now-famous Lyon Diet Heart Study, which began in 1988 to study whether a Mediterranean diet could reduce the incidence of second heart attacks or heart-related deaths among a group of 605 men and women who had survived a first heart attack. Just two and a half years into the trial, the study was stopped because the benefits of the Mediterranean diet were so compelling.
- Another example, an NIH-AARP study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine in 2007, also provided strong evidence for the beneficial effects of this diet on Americans, showing that a higher conformity with the Mediterranean dietary pattern reduced risk of death from all causes, including deaths due to cardiovascular disease and cancer.
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Final Takeaways From This Study
This well-designed study illustrates that a vegan diet is very effective for weight loss while a Mediterranean diet may result in no overall loss of weight. The vegan diet also caused reductions in fat mass and visceral fat volume as well as better outcomes for insulin sensitivity and cholesterol levels .
As the scientists in charge of this study stated, Mediterranean and vegan diets are variations on a theme: one favors plant-based foods the other consists of plant products exclusively. They also noted that previous studies had reported that the only aspect of a Mediterranean diet that was associated with preventing weight gain was the avoidance of meat products . As well, they referenced the PREDIMED study in which a sub-analysis revealed that the more participants followed a plant-based diet, the lower their risk of cardiovascular events .
A Mediterranean diet includes copious amounts of plant-based foods. Why not take it a few steps further and turn it into a plant-based Mediterranean diet?
Heres what you can do to optimize the potential health benefits of a Mediterranean diet
- Increase your intake of fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains.
- Avoid all meats. If you feel you simply must eat fish, limit it to one serving a week.
- Eat no eggs or cheese, low-fat or otherwise.
- Use olive oil sparingly, only when you feel an added fat is needed.
Eat Well To Lower Your Cholesterol
Basing your diet on the foods people eat in the Mediterranean is a great way to look after your heart.
We have known for some time that people living in countries along the Mediterranean appear to have less heart disease than people living in the UK and northern Europe.
Health professionals now believe that this may be partly due to the foods that make up the traditional Mediterranean way of eating.
The Mediterranean diet is high in vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, beans, cereals, grains, fish and unsaturated fats such as olive oil. It usually includes a low intake of meat and dairy foods. This is now seen as a good way of eating both for a healthy heart and for general well-being.
The UKs own eat well guide is made up of similar foods and in similar amounts.
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Best Yogurt For Mediterranean Diet
Yogurt is one of the staple foods for almost any diet. Unless you are completely cutting dairy, you can add plenty of yogurt to the Mediterranean diet. However, you need to make sure that you add the right yogurt, which is not packed full of fat and other useless ingredients. This is why we want to answer the question What kind of yogurt can you eat on the Mediterranean diet?
Eating Greek yogurt is the common choice for those following the Mediterranean diet, and you will notice that it is very low in calories. However, Greek yogurt has plenty of nutritional value that is added to your diet. It also serves as a great accessory, like adding it to your breakfast or binding certain ingredients together for a meal.
However, there are other forms of yogurt you might want to enjoy, which is why we have created this article. It should help you in selecting the best yogurt for the Mediterranean diet. You should find out everything you need to know about integrating yogurt into the Mediterranean diet.
The Mediterranean Diet Research
However, this type of evidence is considered very weak. Observational studies can only show associations between diets and health outcomes. They cant prove that eating a certain way improves health or prevents disease.
Instead, its better to rely on results from clinical trials, especially randomized controlled trials, to assess a Mediterranean diets potential health benefits.
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Is A Mediterranean Diet Beneficialfor Heart Health
The Mediterranean diet is often described as a heart-healthy diet. Does it live up to this reputation? Perhaps, although some of its benefits may have been overstated.
Several trials have shown that eating a Mediterranean diet may reduce some heart disease risk factors.20
The PREDIMED trial followed more than 7,000 participants at high risk of heart disease for nearly five years. Those who were assigned to eat a Mediterranean diet had slightly better outcomes than those who followed a low-fat diet.2122
A two-year trial in overweight people with heart disease found that losing weight on a Mediterranean diet can potentially help reduce the amount of plaque on artery walls.23
According to the authors of a 2019 study, the high intake of olive oil and nuts in Mediterranean diets seems to play a large role in reducing LDL and very low-density lipoprotein particles that may contribute to heart disease risk.24However, despite encouraging results overall, a recent review of 30 trials concluded that it is unclear whether eating a Mediterranean diet helps prevent heart disease.25
Bottom line: Although the Mediterranean diet has been shown to help reduce some heart disease risk factors, more results from long-term trials are needed to reach definitive conclusions about its effects on heart health.
What The Mediterranean Diet Is All About
The Mediterranean diet draws upon the culinary practices of southern Europe, North Africa, and the Mediterranean Middle East, all areas where food is prepared to be savored and enjoyed, not rushed.
Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and herbs make up the foundation of this diets pyramid, and every meal is centered around them. Fish is eaten at least twice a week, while poultry, eggs, and dairy are eaten less often, perhaps just a few days a week. Meats and sweets, meanwhile, are served in moderation.
Healthy fats, like olive oil, should be used in place of others, like butter and vegetable oil. And red wine can even be enjoyed in moderate amounts.
Need some examples? Weve compiled some of the best, authentic recipes for Mediterranean-style eating. Bon appétit!
Pita chips in a salad? The crunchy bites means the fattoush always goes fast in a Middle Eastern meze. The salad features all of the fresh summer salad ingredients youd find in a traditional garden, along with a lime vinaigrette that has allspice and cinnamon.
Tabbouleh traces its roots to Syria, but youll find it in many other Mediterranean restaurants, too. With herbs and fresh lemon juice, its refreshing and filling, making it popular as a side dish to falafel or fish, or even as a meal on its own.
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Caveats: Would A True Low
Although the control groups diet was meant to be low fat, the participants did not achieve this, possibly due to the relatively low level of dietary education and personalized counseling at the start of the study. Their inability to reach the < 30% fat target could also reflect the difficulty patients have, in general, in decreasing fat content in their diet, which may mean the diet they maintained was a more realistic comparison.
This study used one brand of olive oil and a particular mixture of nuts it is possible that variations on either of these could affect the benefits of the diet.
Mediterranean Diet Food Pyramid And Food Components
Plant-based foods such as whole grains, vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, and seeds, and healthy fats such as olive oil should be worked into every meal when possible. Below, we break down six essential components of the Mediterranean diet.
1. Healthy Grains: Whether enjoyed for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, whole, healthy grains are full of fiber, antioxidants, and anti-inflammatory properties. A 2015 study in JAMA Internal Medicine linked whole grains and lower mortality, especially from chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease and type-2 diabetes. Common whole grains include brown rice and oats, while ancient grains such as quinoa, amaranth, farro, buckwheat, and bulgur pack the added perk of being gluten-free.
2. Vegetables: These plant-based foods are colorful, nutritious, and extremely versatile. Whether raw, grilled, steamed, sautéed, roasted, or pickled, vegetables should be on your plate during every meal. Theyre easy to spread over pizza, mix into scrambled eggs, or toss into salads.
3. Proteins: Good proteins to eat include fish and shellfish, especially varieties packing omega-3 fatty acids. Some of the healthiest seafood you can eat are salmon, arctic char, mackerel, anchovies, and oysters. Dont forget about plant proteins such as beans, legumes, nuts, and seedsthese foods contain unsaturated fats, fiber, and can add instant texture and flavor to salads or stand alone as satisfying snacks.
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Healthy Fats On The Mediterranean Diet
Extra virgin olive oil is a staple of the Mediterranean diet. Aim for adding 1 tablespoon, but no more than four, to your daily diet. Other plant-based oils, like avocado oil, are also acceptable, but avoid butter and other animal fats.
What About Other Popular Diets
You may have heard about popular diets like paleo, ketogenic , Atkins, interval, zone and Whole30. Keep in mind, not all trendy diets meet the AHAs science-based criteria for a healthy eating pattern. Some show dramatic but short-term results and are not heart-healthy.
DASH, or Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, is another eating plan that aligns with AHA recommendations and has been proven to improve health. The DASH diet allows more dairy products and meat, while the Mediterranean diet includes regular use of olive oil.
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Life After The Meal Plan
Find more recipes on our site
Your journey doesnt end after 7 days of Mediterranean-style low-fat recipes. Its about finding recipes that can become staples in your household and creating eating habits that actually last.
You can also sign up for our 28 day plan for over 100+ recipes and 4 weeks of meal plans.
We would like to take a moment to note that this post is for information purposes only. It does not claim to provide medical advice or to be able to treat any medical condition. If you have any concerns regarding your health please contact your medical practitioner before making changes.
Whats The Best Low Fat Diet
We recommend following a Mediterranean-style diet if youre looking to follow a low fat diet.
Although it does contain some fat, it is full of the fats you need to eat in order to maintain a balanced and healthy diet. It is also well studied and has an extensive amount of research backing its use.
It encourages the consumption of the foods listed previously such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, legumes, beans, low-fat dairy, fatty fish and other lean protein. Cooking is done predominantly with olive oil instead of butter, which contains lots of saturated fats.
The main characteristics of eating a Mediterranean diet are typical of a balanced diet and include:
- High unsaturated-to-saturated fat ratio
- High consumption of fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and unrefined grains
- Increased consumption of fish
The U.S News & World Report have a yearly ranking of the main diets and have ranked the diet as the best since 2018.
Part of the reason it is highly recommended is not just because of the health benefits, but also how easy to is to follow. Finding an eating style you stick to long-term is important so that you dont yoyo between diets and fall back into unhealthy eating habits.
It is ranked so highly because of both how easy it is to follow as well as the scientific research backing its use. This makes it a great choice if youre looking for a healthy diet that youll actually stick to.
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Food Included In The Mediterranean Diet
- An abundance of natural, whole, fresh plant foods, including fruits and vegetables
- Whole grain, high-fiber breads, cereals, and rice
- Minimal saturated fat from limited amounts of chicken and lean cuts of grass-fed red meat
- Fatty fish, especially salmon, sardines, trout, and tuna
- Dairy products, especially yogurt, Parmesan, and feta cheeses
- Olive oil, flaxseed, and avocados
- High quality vinegars, such as balsamic
- Frequent legumes, especially soybeans, lentils, white beans, black beans, chick peas
- Nuts, such as walnuts, almonds, pecans, and brazil nuts
- Fresh and dried herbs
What To Do About High Carb Fruits And Vegetables
Low carb diets usually limit high carb fruits and vegetables. Sometimes they completely ban them.
They include foods such as:
- Vegetables: sweet potatoes, corn, beets, carrots
- Fruits: bananas, raisins, apples, mangos
Generally limiting these foods in any way isnt a good idea. Most are high in vitamins and minerals and have various health benefits.
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Does The Mediterranean Diet Provide Other Health Benefits
Following a Mediterranean diet may also improve some health conditions:
- Diabetes and prediabetes: In 2015, researchers who conducted a review of Mediterranean diet trials in people with type 2 diabetes found that they are more effective for lowering blood sugar levels than low-fat diets.26
A low-carb or keto Mediterranean diet may be even better than a classic Mediterranean diet for lowering blood sugar.27 When people with type 2 diabetes eat very low-carb diets, their blood sugar often decreases to the point that they are able to reduce or discontinue their diabetes medication.28
- Fatty liver: Results from some trials suggest that a Mediterranean diet may reduce liver fat in people with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease or those at high risk for the disease.29 Low-carb and keto Mediterranean diets have been shown to dramatically reduce liver fat.30