My favorite part of the Mediterranean Diet is the fact that it celebrates and embraces healthy fats. Very unlike the Standard American Diet – or SAD. And in a world where fat-free is the way to go, it may take you a few tries to truly embrace adding healthy fats to your diet – all day long – snacks, breakfast, lunch and dinner. It certainly took me a few tries, but now I enjoy rebelling against the fat-free mentality.
Fat not only adds flavor to foods but ups the satiation level so you feel fuller faster and the satisfaction lingers – so you’re not hungry in twenty minutes. I say, drizzle on the extra virgin olive oil, slice up a creamy avocado and sprinkle on the chopped nuts. But I wasn’t always this way. In order to embrace the healthy fat Mediterranean Diet you need to first change your thinking. Change the way you look at food and set up your meals. And discover that yes, more fat can be a good thing…
(prenote. Always consult a doctor for your specific dietary needs. This is my story..)
Fat isn’t so scary. But as a teenage girl, I went through a phase of being a true fat-phobe. Fat in my food scared me. And I wasn’t alone. It’s a common fear among young girls discovering nutrition and dieters of all ages. After a few years of being afraid of all fat, something had to give. Starving my body of monounsaturated fats and oils left me feeling depressed, tired, cranky and moody. My hair, skin and nails were bone dry. And my cholesterol tests showed I was wrecking havoc on my body. If you want to read about my story of fat-phobia read here – it’s all about how I (a fat-free teenager) learned to love my California girl avocados, almonds and olive oil.
To me, the first step towards embracing the Mediterranean Diet is changing your fat intake. And maybe the types of fats you are consuming. Saturated Fats out, Monounsaturated fats in.
Really, if you compare the American diet with the Medi Diet, the main difference is that there are more healthy fats in the Medi Diet. Also, less emphasis on meat and refined grains. More emphasis on whole foods like legumes, veggies, fruit, nuts, seeds and whole grains.
So now, lets talk fat.
Note: A Mediterranean Diet is not “high fat” – it’s not fat free. And focuses on “healthy fats” in moderation.
Three types of Fats.
Monounsaturated Fats. “Good Fat”
Saturated Fats. “Bad Fat.”
Polyunsaturated fats. “Not as good as Mono fats”
Cholesterol: HDL=good cholesterol. LDL=bad cholesterol.
*I call HDL the “happy” cholesterol to help me remember.
One way to check up on your healthy fats intake is to get your cholesterol checked. That’s how I realized that I needed to embrace healthy fats. And once I did, I saw the positive results in my tests.
College Cholesterol Wake-Up Call. It wasn’t until college that my fat-free phobia really hit me. It was the results from my routine first-year of-college student physical. You’d think a healthy weight, fat-free vegetarian would have fabulous levels of everything right? I expected everything to be perfect, but I was shocked when one of the blood tests showed that I had less than stellar cholesterol readings and pitiful HDL numbers-my good cholesterol was incredibly low. Not good. Especially for someone who has a genetic family trait of high cholesterol. I changed my fat intake. Added lots of plentiful olive oil, avocados and nuts and the test i took a year later showed my HDL levels soaring. Success!
Healthy Fat Mediterranean Diet Foods:
nuts (almond, walnuts, pine nuts, pistachios, more..)
extra virgin olive oil
Another distinguishable aspect of the Medi Diet is adding legumes to your diet. Beans folded into steamy olive oil-tomato-basil pasta? Yes please!
One of my fave spots to load up on Medi Diet foods: Eataly NYC! (you can even shop online.)