It’s time to embrace fat! Healthy fat, that it is. Americans demonized fat in the 1990’s and are likely eating their words now. Heart-healthy, mono-unsaturated fats are at the core of a Mediterranean diet and have several health benefits worth noting. In addition to giving food great flavor, healthy fats may protect your heart and brain and potentially reduce cancer risk. Keep reading to find out which are best.
Avocados- if you haven’t tried avocado toast, where have you been? Avocados have been in vogue for a few years and with good reason. This bright green fruit (yes, they are technically fruit), are full of heart-healthy mono-unsaturated fat as well as being a good source of potassium. Slice avocados and add them to your salad or sandwich or mash them up in tuna salad in place of mayonnaise.
Nuts and seeds- the Mediterranean diet includes a variety of delicious nuts and seeds including pistachios from Greece, almonds from Italy and hazelnuts from Turkey. Nuts are a great source of heart-healthy fat, protein, phosphorus and fiber. Chop them and add them to salads, oatmeal or yogurt or eat them solo as a snack. Sesame seeds are often used in breads or Mediterranean salads.
Olive oil- previous research found that Greeks who included olive oil in their diet had lower rates of heart disease. Olive oil, especially extra virgin olive, is higher in polyphenols, which may also aid in cancer prevention. Olive oil is still calorie-dense, so use in moderation and in place of solid fats like butter.
Olives- these savory beauties are at the heart of a Mediterranean diet as well. Olives provide mono-unsaturated fat and zero carbohydrate, making them a great snack for those with elevated blood sugar. They can be high in sodium, so individuals with high blood pressure may need to limit them.
Red wine- I’ve heard that wine is less expensive to drink in Italy than water, so raise a glass! Red wine in particular, is part of a Mediterranean diet and served at most meals in Italy, Spain, Greece and France. It’s high in resveratrol, which may have anti-aging properties. Be moderate with alcohol intake, meaning two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women. Those at risk for breast cancer are advised to limit alcohol to three drinks per week or less.
Here is a wonderful dish called Pan Con Tomato that is made by grating fresh tomatoes and garlic and stirring in a little olive oil. You can use it as a fresh tomato sauce, bread spread, or the base to a salad dressing.
Submitted by Lisa Andrews, MEd, RD, LD
Lisa Andrews, MEd, RD, LD, is a registered dietitian and owner of Sound Bites Nutrition in Cincinnati. She shares her clinical, culinary, and community nutrition knowledge through cooking demos, teaching, and freelance writing. Lisa is a regular contributor to Food and Health Communications and Today’s Dietitian and is the author of the Healing Gout Cookbook, Complete Thyroid Cookbook, and Heart Healthy Meal Prep Cookbook. Her line of food pun merchandise, Lettuce beet hunger, supports those suffering food insecurity in Cincinnati. For more information, visit her website: https://soundbitesnutrition.com/