Why healthy fats are a key part of the Mediterranean diet

Why healthy fats are a key part of the Mediterranean diet

It’s day five of Well’s Mediterranean Diet Week.Started with start here.

The Mediterranean diet is different from other diets. First of all, it’s more of a diet than a strict diet. Adopting it does not involve many of the sacrifices people associate with healthy eating.

For example, the Mediterranean diet is relatively high in fat compared to other healthy diets. Federal health officials recommend that 20 to 35 percent of daily calories come from fat, compared with about 30 to 40 percent on the Mediterranean diet.

Yet in clinical trials, people who followed a Mediterranean diet had lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels and were less likely to develop cardiovascular disease than those who followed a low-fat diet.

This may be because the Mediterranean diet emphasizes heart-healthy fats from sources such as olive oil, fish, whole grains, nuts and seeds. And it contains less saturated fat than the typical American diet, as it discourages butter, red and processed meats and contains only moderate amounts of cheese, yogurt, poultry and eggs.

Researchers believe that olive oil, the preferred source of fat in the Mediterranean diet, may be one of the main contributors to its health benefits. It’s rich in heart-healthy monounsaturated fats and has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that prevent damage to cells and blood vessels.

For example, in a 2022 study of more than 90,000 U.S. adults over 28 years, those who consumed at least half a tablespoon of olive oil per day were more likely to die from cancer or cardiovascular, neurodegenerative or respiratory disease Significantly lower than those who consumed little or no olive oil. Never consumed it.

Fish also plays an important role in the Mediterranean diet, especially fatty varieties such as salmon, tuna, anchovies and sardines. These are an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, which can improve blood cholesterol levels and reduce inflammation and blood pressure. Most Mediterranean dietary guidelines recommend eating at least two servings of fish per week.

But let’s not give all the credit to olive oil and fish. Whole grains, nuts, seeds, and olives also contribute healthy fats to your diet. Although avocados are not native to the Mediterranean region, avocados are rich in monounsaturated fat and are often included in modern diets. Below, we’ve included ideas for incorporating these foods into your daily life, along with some recipes chosen by our colleagues at New York Times Cooking.

Earlier this week we stocked up on whole grains, nuts and seeds. Here are some more foods to add healthy fats to your meals:

  • Extra virgin olive oil (our colleagues at Wirecutter share their favorite grocery store brands in this guide)

  • avocado

  • Canned fish, such as tuna, salmon, anchovies, and sardines

  • Fresh or frozen fish, such as salmon, tuna, mackerel and cod

Each day in our Mediterranean Diet series, we and our colleagues at New York Times Cooking select recipes that contain ingredients we highlight. This isn’t a meal plan for the day, but inspiration on how to incorporate more of these healthy foods into your week.

For breakfast, you could mash some avocado onto whole-grain toast and drizzle a little olive oil over the top. Optional garnishes like fresh herbs, pickled red onions, squash, or sesame seeds serve avocado toast in this recipe from Julia Moskin and Giles Russell Taken to the next level.

Craig Claiborne’s classic tuna salad sandwich is a quick, affordable lunch option, but if you’re looking for something a little more “rich and obvious,” try Ali Slager’s (Ali Slagle) Sardine Salad on a whole-wheat bagel, greens, or between two slices of a sandwich. Whole wheat toast. Anchovies are also a delicious addition to salad dressings, such as David Tanis’s vibrant Chicory Anchovy Salad.

For dinner, try Alison Roman’s Slow Roasted Citrus Salmon with Herb Salad (ready in 35 minutes) or Mark Bittman’s Herb and Olive Seared Tuna (ready in 20 minutes ). Let’s not forget canned and canned fish. Sohla El-Waylly’s sardine pasta puttanesca makes the most of anchovies and canned sardines.

I’ve long been a purist for baking with butter, but I’m experimenting with using olive oil in desserts, like Samantha Seneviratne’s elegant Lemony Olive Oil Cake. A beautifully moist wedge, perhaps topped with fresh fruit, is the perfect way to end a week of delicious food.

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