The term “fat” is often a negative one, typically viewed as the enemy of diets and weight-watching. But more and more research has shown that cutting off all fat may actually do more harm than good, and you’re better off simply steering away from processed foods and sugar if you want to reach a healthy weight.
In particular, a high-fat Mediterranean diet may actually offer you far more benefits than a low-fat diet. A new study published in Annals of Internal Medicine finds that after reviewing a variety of studies, a Mediterranean diet with no restrictions on fat intake could lower the risk of breast cancer, diabetes, and cardiovascular issues compared to other diets.
“The evidence that we reviewed from the past 50 years or so showed that people who consumed a Mediterranean diet with no restriction on fat intake have a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, breast cancer, and type 2 diabetes,” said Dr. Hanna Bloomfield, lead author of the study, in a video.
First, the researchers had to define what a Mediterranean diet consists of: They described it as having a high monounsaturated-to-saturated fat ratio; eating a lot of fruits and vegetables, legumes, grains, and fish; and consuming red wine, dairy products, and meat in moderation. In particular, however, they defined it as being “a plant-based diet with no restrictions on total fat intake, that emphasizes the intake of monosaturated fats such as olive oil,” said Bloomfield in the video.
It’s been known for years now that a Mediterranean diet — named after the olive-oil, plant, and fish-based meals found in Croatia, Spain, Greece, Italy, Morocco, and Portugal — has positive health benefits. It’s been shown to protect people from heart disease, cancer, and cognitive decline. Even psychiatrists are employing plant-based diets to help treat mental health.
Monosaturated fats, as opposed to saturated or trans fats, are considered the “good” fat. Monosaturated fats are the ones found in healthy oils, like olive oil, and they improve blood cholesterol levels as well as help control blood sugar. Other healthy fats include polyunsaturated fatty acids — found in plant-based foods and oils — and omega-3 fatty acids, known for being a big aspect of fish like salmon.
This new attitude towards diet eliminates the anti-carb and anti-fat notion, and instead encourages people to embrace the Mediterranean diet — filled with pastas, good fats, and yes, even a little bit of wine.
“Healthy diets can include a lot of fat, especially if it’s healthy fat, and the emphasis in the United States at least for the past thirty years has been it’s important to reduce fat, fat of all kind, fat’s the bad thing. It turns out that the obesity epidemic in this country is probably more due to our increased consumption of refined grains and added sugar.”
Source: Bloomfield H, Koeller E, Greer N, MacDonald R, Kane R, Wilt T. Effects on Health Outcomes of a Mediterranean Diet With No Restriction on Fat Intake. Annals of Internal Medicine, 2016.