What comes to your mind when you think about a diet high in fat? Do you think of a healthy diet that could lower your risk of heart disease and help you lose weight? Probably not. But that’s exactly what the Mediterranean Diet is. The Mediterranean diet emphasizes healthy fats (nuts, fish, olive oil), fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and even a daily glass of wine.
When it comes to fat, it’s important to remember that not all fat is created equal. There are three main types: unsaturated fat, saturated fat, and trans fat.
- Unsaturated Fat is the healthy type of fat which is encouraged in the Mediterranean diet. One type of unsaturated fat known as omega-3 fatty acids have even been shown to lower cholesterol and triglycerides. Unsaturated fats tend to be liquid at room temperature and are more likely to be from plant sources. Some of the best sources of unsaturated fats are olive oil, canola oil, walnuts, almonds, olives, avocados, and fatty fish like salmon and tuna.
- Saturated Fat is considered a less healthy type of fat and should be limited because it may increase your cholesterol or impact inflammation. Saturated fat tends to be from animal sources and is solid at room temperature. Sources of saturated fat are red meat, full fat dairy products, cheese, ice cream, and butter. Pastries and cakes also tend to be higher in saturated fat.
- Trans Fat is an unhealthy type of fat which should be limited or avoided completely. Only very small amounts of trans fat exist in our food naturally. Most trans fat is created through a process known as hydrogenation. Trans fat not only raises your bad cholesterol, but it may also lower your good cholesterol levels. Many manufactures are now making an effort to remove trans fat from foods, but be sure to check the ingredient label for the words hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated. Trans fat might be found in frosting, biscuits, certain type of margarine, pastries, desserts, and snack foods.
Now that we are familiar with fats, let’s examine the other aspects of the diet. Fruits and vegetables are typically consumed at every meal, with an average of 7-9 servings per day. Grains are not avoided, they are embraced. In Greece, whole grain bread is typically eaten dipped in olive oil as opposed to butter. Many meals are meatless. When animal foods are consumed it is more likely to be seafood or chicken. Last but not least, is an emphasis on social dining. Eating with friends and family, taking your time to appreciate the food, and enjoying a glass of wine. If this sounds like a good plan to you, take a look at the sample menu below.
Mediterranean Diet 1 Day Sample Menu
Breakfast: Greek Yogurt with fresh fruit and granola
Lunch: Greek Salad with half an avocado and slice of whole grain bread
Snack: 1 ounce nuts, grapes
Dinner: 4 ounces salmon served over pasta in olive oil, side of vegetables, 4 oz wine (optional)
Dessert: small piece of dark chocolate, almonds
Heather Mason is a Registered Dietitian who holds a Master’s Degree in Nutrition Science. She has a passion for debunking nutrition myths and helping people discover delicious and healthy food. You can read more posts from her on her blog, Nutty Nutrition.