Tag Archives: Healthy Fats

The Mediterranean Diet Controversery

I love the Mediterranean Diet. With all the fad diets whirling around the Internet, it is easy to get confused. This is one diet that you do not have to worry about. It does not require changing your eating habits to any kind of extreme, starving yourself for long stretches, or making dramatic lifestyle changes.

In fact, the Mediterranean Diet is not only one of the safest and healthiest ways to eat, it is practical, as well.  Basically, all it requires is eating a healthier, natural diet and enjoying the food you are eating.

It is a way of slowing down, developing a healthy relationship with food, and appreciating food. The diet is time-tested because people in many parts of the world have been eating this type of diet for centuries.

And yet . . . in spite of all those powerful points, there is still some controversy about the diet, which I want to address and dispel today (if at all possible).

Inclusion of Fats

Mediterranean Diet
Image by AngelSimon

Sounds surprising – and yes, the Mediterranean Diet does not shy away from “healthy” fats, even though that is out of the ordinary for most diets. In fact, many of the recipes are prepared with large amounts of olive oil or with feta cheese sprinkled on top.

Your first instinct may be to question how that could possibly be healthy. We have heard from the experts for years that fat creates bad cholesterol and leads to heart disease and weight gain.

Fat does contain more calories per gram (9 to be exact – verses 4 grams in carbs or protein). BUT . . . the upside is that fat releases energy much slower, which keeps you feeling full longer and alleviates the craving for sugar and the damage that sugar causes in your body, such as the risk of diabetes.

Regions of the world where this diet is prevalent has a much lower incidence of diabetes among the population.

Another fact you may not know is that fat does not actually cause high cholesterol or heart disease. Recent studies have looked at this theory and found just the opposite.  Healthy fats lower the bad cholesterol (LDL) and improve the good cholesterol (HDL).

Fat also has other direct health benefits. It increases testosterone, which leads to greater physical strength and weight loss; and, it also enhances nutrient absorption that is important for a healthy brain.

Inclusion of Wine

In addition to the unusual inclusion of fats, wine and carbs are also part of the Mediterranean Diet. If you have been paying attention

Mediterranean Diet
Image by karandaev

to articles about carbohydrates, you are probably aware that carbs provide a sudden sugar hit, which some of the experts have declared as very bad. There is some truth to that information, but it is tempered by the types of carbs eaten, plus the overall diet consumed.

The Mediterranean Diet contains fewer simple carbs than most typical Western diets. The emphasis is on “natural foods” and the avoidance of processed foods that are filled with additives, high sugar and high unhealthy fat content – foods such as prepared meals, chocolate, candy, sodas and highly-caffeinated drinks.

The emphasis of the diet is to stop thinking of food as something you inhale on the run – grabbing the most convenient items available. The goal is for you to actually start eating regular, planned meals of healthy foods that will dramatically improve your over-all health.

But . . . what about the wine? Over-indulgence in alcoholic beverages of any kind is not a good thing. But, alcohol in small quantities has been shown to actually increase the human lifespan – especially red wine, which contains the all-important ‘resveratrol’ for strengthening the mitochondria.

The key words in the above paragraph are – taken in “small quantities.” This is not permission to “drink all you want.”

Benefits of the Mediterranean Diet

To sum it all up in the words of Dr. Josh Axe, DNM, DC, CNS, a certified doctor of natural medicine:

Considered by many nutrition experts to be one of the most heart-healthy ways of eating there is, the base of the Mediterranean diet is loaded with anti-inflammatory foods and built upon plant-based foods and healthy fats.

Based on much research, this particular diet can protect against the development of heart disease, metabolic complications, depression, cancer, type-2 diabetes, obesity, dementia, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. The best part is, even with all of these benefits, it still provides the opportunity for people to “eat, drink and be merry.”

Read his entire article for the 8 Health Benefits of the Mediterranean Diet.

Image by tepic
Image by tepic

If you really want to live a healthy lifestyle and enjoy your food, the Mediterranean Diet is a choice I encourage you to explore. 

 

 

Healthy Weight Loss the Mediterranean Way

My last post was an overview of the Mediterranean-way of eating. Today, I would like to add another dimension – healthy weight loss the Mediterranean way.

Halthy weight loss - Mediterranean Food
Image by lunamarina

I mentioned the studies that have supported the diet’s ability to reduce heart disease and cancer and improve longevity – important points, for sure, and hopefully enough to encourage people to change their eating habits.

However, the American public in general seems to be more inclined to change their diet if they think it will help them lose weight. In fact, losing weight is one of the strongest motivating factors for adopting a new diet. This is not always the case, but often, it is.

In that light, I thought it wise to let you know how the Mediterranean Diet fares in the weight loss category. Let’s take a closer look…

Fats and Weight Loss

The Mediterranean Diet is quite different than many popular diets. It does not involve counting calories, cutting carbs, or cutting fats. In fact, the diet includes fats – with lots of olive oil.

Since fat contains 9 calories per gram, I understand why it may be a concern. For those reasons many people think that it is not a good choice for weight loss. In fact, the question must be asked: How can a diet that includes fats possibly contribute to weight loss?

Simple! The fats on the Mediterranean Diet are primarily olive oil and canola oil (healthy fats) that contain lots of nutrients and keep you feeling fuller – longer. And, there are other factors.

Nutrient Rich

The diet as a whole gives your body real food (close to nature) that provides the necessary nutrients. As a result, you actually get to feel full and the cravings will diminish – both of which help with weight loss.

Another fact you may not know is that many nutrients actually enhance weight loss. For example, Vitamin B Complex from veggies, cheese, legumes, CoQ10 from the meats and fish, plus the generous use of garlic – all improve metabolism.

Weight Loss – YES

This is a diet that helps you to eat healthier. When that is your focus, you are keeping your body well-fed and energized and weight loss comes naturally.

The meals that can be prepared with the foods on this diet are delicious and the lifestyle is practical. It is a diet you will enjoy so that staying with it is not such a challenge. However, diet (any diet) alone is never the formula for weight loss.  It is a critical component, but should be accompanied by adequate rest and regular exercise.

If you take care of your health through diet, exercise and rest – weight loss can be a natural benefit.  Give it a try.

Good Fats vs Bad Fats

Today the general public is much more aware of the danger of fat in the diet – and more specifically they have an general awareness of good fats vs. bad fats. Thank Goodness!

Talk shows, magazines, the Internet, etc., offer facts, opinions and general promotion of “healthy foods.” Information about good fats vs. bad fats is available everywhere. However, be cautious . . . it is important to read and listen carefully. Some of the information may be supporting a dietary fad that lines a company’s pockets, but could be dangerous to your health. Fads have the power to change a good eating habit into a bad eating habit by suggesting that you carry it to the extreme. Adding too much fat (even good fat) to your diet is not a healthy idea.

Yes, your body needs fat to function effectively. It is an important component in a healthy diet. But, you should eat the right kind of fat in appropriate amounts. When healthy fats are incorporated into your diet in proper amounts, they supply energy, help absorb fat-soluble vitamins and provide crucial fats that your body cannot manufacture.

It is up to you to educate yourself.  Learn the difference between good and bad fats, be very clear on the amount of healthy fats you should be eating on a daily basis, and stay within the healthy guidelines.

How Much Healthy Fat Should Your Eat?

The Center of Disease Control and Prevention recommends that 20 to 35 percent of your daily calories come from healthy fats. This is based on a healthy (reasonable) number of calories consumed each day. For example if you eat 2500/day, multiply 2500 X 20% = 500 calories, then 2500 X 35% = 875 calories. This calculates the range of the number of fat calories that should be eaten daily (500 to 875 calories from fat per day).

Fat contains nine calories per gram, so divide each number of the fat-calorie range by nine to determine your daily fat grams. For a 2,500-calorie per day diet, the recommended daily fat intake is 55 to 97 grams. The recommended daily fat allowance for 1,500-calorie and 2,000-calorie diets are 33 to 58 grams and 44 to 78 grams, respectively.

Types of Fats

Saturated Fat – This is a bad fat, found mostly in animal products. It contributes to clogged arteries and multiple other cardiovascular issues, plus obesity. Some studies suggest that saturated fat may play a role in developing Type 2 diabetes.

Trans Fat – This is a very bad fat and typically found in processed foods even in some types of peanut butter. To cut down (and eliminate) trans fats from your diet, avoid fast foods and learn to read labels on processed foods – avoid any food that contains hydrogenated vegetable oils or trans fat.

AvocadoUnsaturated Fat – This is a good fat. There are two types: monounsaturated fat, and polyunsaturated fats. The first is found in

olive oils, nut oils, and whole avocados, whole nuts and whole seeds. The second is found in seed oils, fish, eggs and non-hydrogenated oils.

In order to stay on the safe side when it comes to your fat intake, choose unprocessed fat from natural sources over fat that is processed. Some examples are: nuts, seeds, avocados in their natural state or blended into a dip or dressing. Keep in mind that all oil is processed to some extent. Even olive oils and seed oils should be used in small amounts. In this case, more is not better. Overdoing it will ruin

Image by AngelSimon
Image by AngelSimon

whatever benefits you may gain from the healthy fats.

Always eat foods as close to their natural state as possible. An abundance of beneficial nutrients can be found in whole, fresh, natural foods. For example: flax seeds are high in Omega vitamins. You will get far more benefit eating flax seeds than you will by taking fish oil supplements or drizzling too much olive oil over your food.

Choose healthy fats, watch your intake (don’t over do it), learn to read labels and be healthy.