A Mediterranean diet is generally rich in olive oil, grains, fruits, nuts, vegetables, and fish. It also includes a moderate amount of red wine and restricts meats, high-fat dairy products, and other types of alcohol. It is called a Mediterranean diet because these are the general dietary patterns of the 16 countries that border the Mediterranean Sea. People who follow a Mediterranean diet consume less saturated fat and more fiber than do people who eat an average American diet. Research has shown that people who maintained a Mediterranean-style diet lost more weight over a 2-year period than people who followed either a high-protein or a low-fat diet.
However, the Mediterranean diet still contains a high percentage of calories from fat, which contributes to a growing problem of obesity in Mediterranean countries. The good news is that the majority of these calories come from monounsaturated fats, the kind found in olive oil. This is a better option for fat intake, since monounsaturated fats do not raise cholesterol as much as saturated fats (from animal products) do. As a result, the occurrence of heart disease in Mediterranean countries is lower than in the United States. There is also evidence that eating a Mediterranean diet may reduce your risk of cancer, Parkinson’s disease, and Alzheimer’s disease. Further studies are needed to determine whether the Mediterranean diet leads to a lower number of deaths from heart disease.
1. The American Heart Association currently recommends that most people consume 25 to 35 percent of their calories from fat, whether or not they are trying to lose weight. Saturated fats, found in meat products and tropical oils, should be limited to 7 percent of your daily calories, and trans fat, found in commercially baked goods, should make up no more than 1 percent of your daily calorie intake.
2. People who have heart disease should minimize their consumption of foods high in saturated or trans fats.