Why Healthy Fats Are a Key Part of the Mediterranean Diet – The New York Times

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This is Day 5 of Well’s Mediterranean Diet Week. Start at the beginning here.

The Mediterranean diet isn’t like other diets. To begin with, it’s more of a style of eating than a strict regimen. And adopting it doesn’t involve many of the sacrifices people associate with healthy eating.

Compared with other wholesome diets, for example, the Mediterranean diet is relatively high in fat. Federal health officials recommend that 20 to 35 percent of your daily calories come from fat — while that number can be around 30 to 40 percent in the Mediterranean diet.

Yet in clinical trials, people who followed the 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.

That’s probably because the Mediterranean diet emphasizes heart-healthy fats from sources like olive oil, fish, whole grains, and nuts and seeds. And it includes less saturated fat than the typical American diet, because it discourages butter and red and processed meats and includes only moderate amounts of cheese, yogurt, poultry and eggs.

Researchers believe that olive oil, the preferred fat source 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 can prevent damage to your cells and blood vessels.

In a 2022 study of more than 90,000 U.S. adults spanning 28 years, for instance, those who consumed at least half a tablespoon of olive oil each day were significantly less likely to die of cancer or cardiovascular, neurodegenerative or respiratory diseases than those who rarely or never consumed it.

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