EATING a Mediterranean diet with no limit on calories and plenty of olive oil is the best way to stay healthy, a new study suggests.
Experts said guidelines promoting low-fat, low-calorie diets had created an unnecessary fear of the fats present in food loved by the southern Europeans.
Accumulating scientific evidence suggests total fat content is not a useful measure of harms or benefits of food and that fats from nuts, fish and phenolic-rich vegetable oils are healthier than those in meat and processed foods.
Dr Ramon Estruch, of the University of Barcelona, Spain, said: “More than 40 years of nutritional policy has advocated for a low-fat diet but we’re seeing little impact on rising levels of obesity.
“Our study shows that a Mediterranean diet rich in vegetable fats such as olive oil and nuts had little effect on bodyweight or waist circumference compared to people on a low-fat diet.
“Our findings certainly do not imply that unrestricted diets with high levels of unhealthy fats such as butter, processed meat, sweetened beverages, deserts or fast-foods are beneficial.”
Numerous studies have shown the Mediterranean diet, which includes high levels of vegetable fats like olive oil and nuts, is linked to reduced mortality, cardiovascular disease and cancer, but fears over eating all types of fat mean fad diets continue to be recommended as a way of losing weight.
The results come from a large randomised trial published in The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology.
The study of 7,447 men and women aged between 55 and 80 took pace in 11 hospitals in Spain between 2003 and 2010.
They were given either an unrestricted-calorie Mediterranean diet rich in olive oil, an unrestricted-calorie Mediterranean diet rich in nuts, or a low-fat diet where the advice was to avoid all dietary fat.
All participants were at high cardiovascular risk or had Type 2 diabetes, and more than 90 per cent were overweight or obese.
After five years, total fat intake had decreased in the low-fat diet group from 40 per cent to 37.4 per cent and had slightly increased in both Mediterranean diet groups (40 per cent to 41.8 per cent in olive oil; 40.4 per cent to 42.2 per cent in nuts).
The percentage of energy intake from protein and carbohydrate decreased in both Mediterranean diet groups.
On average, those in all three groups lost some weight with the greatest loss seen in the group eating the Mediterranean diet with olive oil.
The Mediterranean diet plans work best for people who also want to reap the rewards of additional health benefits as they shed pounds.
The way this diet works to promote better health is perfect for anyone who is borderline diabetic, has a family history of heart disease or who just wants to live a more natural life.
This is a plan that’s best created for people who have some time to meal prep or cook fresh food on a daily basis.
Since most processed foods are the ones people choose for a chaotic, on the go lifestyle, this diet requires just the opposite.
You’ll do well if you love vegetables and fruits. If your taste buds haven’t experienced produce in forever, it might be a drastic change for you to engage in right at first. But you can learn to prepare these foods in a delicious and healthy manner.
If you’re a hardcore red meat eater who loves anything fried, then this diet might be a struggle for you.
But if you’re a master on the grill, it might be the perfect pairing. Baking is also a wonderful talent to have when you’re following the Mediterranean Diet.
Activity-wise, it’s good either way. Those who are sedentary will do well on it because the diet doesn’t have a ton of foods high in carbs – besides fresh vegetables and fruit.
But the active individuals will be able to enjoy the energy boost these foods give them, to help them maintain the go getter schedule they adhere to.
Is this a good plan for the whole family? Yes! It’s not about weight loss.
That’s a perk of being on this diet. It’s a meal plan that is heart-healthy and beneficial for the whole family – mom, dad, and kids alike!
If you’re the kind of person who can’t control portions or goes way overboard on calories, then this may not work as well for you as a stricter diet plan.
With the Mediterranean Diet, they tell you what foods to eat, but the willpower to maintain normal portion sizes is up to you.
You don’t have to worry about losing weight if you’re eating healthy fats. These are fats that actually work better to help you lose weight – not against you where you’re packing on the pounds.
It’s a good plan for anyone who wants some flexibility. It’s not foods that are eliminated, but more of a swap in the method of preparation. So instead of a chicken fried steak with cream gravy, you’d enjoy a lean filet mignon with fresh vegetables on the side.
You’re still getting the same foods, but they’re prepared in a manner that’s better for your body. Grilled or steamed, baked or broiled. Not fried in unhealthy oils. This is more a matter of learning how to use foods to better your health than to use them against you.