Are you tired of weird fad diets yet? Seems like there is a new one every few months, each with its’ own set of extreme guidelines. Human beings are attracted by novelty, it is true; which is why the diet book market is perennial. Hopefully we are also guided by common sense, practicality and intuition.
Regardless if you like fad diets or dislike fad diets, you could always think of the Mediterranean diet as a many thousand-year-old fad that just won’t quit.
The Mediterranean diet is characterized by high intake of vegetables, fruits, nuts, legumes, fish, seafood and cereals with a low intake of meat and meat products and dairy products. It also features a high ratio of mono-unsaturated to saturated fats, with olive oil being the primary fat in the diet.
A very important part of the Mediterranean diet is the high intake of vegetables. It can be argued that this is closely linked to olive oil for a simple reason: vegetables cooked with olive oil taste so good that no one has a problem eating healthy amounts. It is not uncommon to have a minor squabble over who will get the last of the Kale with Olive Oil and Garlic!
Olive oil: a good fat
Hopefully we are all over the idea that dietary fat is always bad. So very not true. Some dietary fats do seem to be bad—trans-fats for example. Good fats are a critical part of our diet, so we should seek out healthy fats that will benefit our health. Watching the overall amount of fat in our diets is still important, so we need to substitute healthy fats for other fats, not simply add good fats on top of the bad fats. It is also important to remember that we are human beings, not chemistry sets, so we want to find healthy things that taste good!
Olive oil is primarily mono-unsaturated fat, the healthiest fat for your heart. It has also been shown to raise protective HDL (the “good” cholesterol) and lower LDL (the “bad” cholesterol). The health benefits of olive oil don’t stop with the mono-unsaturated fat, however. Extra virgin olive oil has additional health benefits due to the polyphenols, tocopherols, plant sterols and other things present in this fresh, unrefined product. Refined olive oils have virtually none of these other chemicals.