Chef presenting Mediterranean style dish

You’re probably familiar with the benefits of the Mediterranean diet—but what’s less commonly known are the larger implications when it comes to everyday eating. The Mediterranean meal plan contains plenty of foods high in unsaturated fats, which scientists now say won’t kill your diet. That’s right: The reign of the low-fat diet has ended. Long live the high-fat diet. (Actually, as we’ll discuss, long live the people who eat a high-fat diet.)

The condition is, these fats must be eaten as part of a healthy, vegetable-rich diet with a few adjustments—but when they are, the amount of fat consumed doesn’t seem to carry ill effects. On the contrary, those who eat this way exhibit reduced likelihood of chronic illnesses, such as heart disease, breast cancer, and type 2 diabetes. A researcher told CNN that the increased health may be due to anti-inflammatory properties in these foods, but further study is needed. Read on to learn which foods contain healthy fats and how to incorporate them into your diet for maximum benefits.

Avocado

Most people know this trendy food is a nutritional powerhouse. About 77 percent of the calories in avocados come from healthy fats, making them fattier than most animal-based foods. They’re also a great source of potassium and fiber. The bottom line? People who include avocados in their diets tend to be thinner and have less belly fat than people who don’t. Try avocado as a replacement for condiments such as mayonnaise and sour cream, include them in salads, spread mashed avocado on toast, or try one of the recipes below.

Dark Chocolate

Dark chocolate contains about 65 percent fat, but it also boasts fiber and nutrients, such as iron, magnesium, copper, and manganese. Even better, it’s chock-full of antioxidants, scoring higher even than blueberries. A healthy serving of dark chocolate is about an ounce (or three fingers’ worth). One study found that people who ate dark chocolate at least five times a week were less than half as likely to die from heart disease than those who didn’t.

Eggs

There’s no need to order an egg-white omelet in the name of virtuosity on the Mediterranean diet. While whole eggs are high in cholesterol, it’s been proven that consuming them doesn’t raise cholesterol numbers for most people. The yolks are also full of B vitamins that your brain, cardiovascular system, and nervous system need to function. There’s a reason Authority Nutrition calls them “one of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet.”

Fatty Fish

Fatty fish (sometimes called oily fish) include salmon, sardines, mackerel, herring, and trout. They’re an excellent source of the omega-3 fatty acids that are so important to heart health as well as protein and other nutrients. A diet that includes fish has been linked to lower incidence of heart disease, depression, dementia, and more. Two servings per week of fatty fish is the baseline to start reaping the benefits of the nutrients they contain. Fish high in mercury, such as salmon and tuna, should be restricted to two servings per week (12 ounces total).

Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Olives

Extra virgin olive oil is a mainstay of the Mediterranean diet, and for good reason. In addition to improving cardiovascular health, it also has antioxidants that fight inflammation. Olives of all types are full of healthy fats as well as other beneficial nutrients. However, they are usually high in sodium, so be sure not to consume more than the recommended serving of 5-10 small olives. Select a few types of olives to try from your grocer’s olive bar.

Nuts and Nut Butters

Nutritionists love walnuts for their high levels of omega-3s, but all nuts are good for you. (This doesn’t apply to peanuts, which are actually legumes.) Keep an eye on recommended serving sizes, which vary between nuts due to the different levels of fat they contain. Try keeping a can of nuts in your desk for when hunger strikes, or sprinkle them into a salad or your morning whole-grain cereal.

Remember, including high-fat foods as part of your diet doesn’t open you up for a nutritional free-for-all. Consuming these healthy fats only works when it’s backed up by other aspects of the Mediterranean diet. Researchers at the Minneapolis Veterans Affairs Medical Center report there’s no upper limit for healthy fat intake as long as you meet two of the following conditions with your high-fat diet.

  • Having a high ratio of monounsaturated to saturated fats
  • Getting plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables
  • Eating lots of legumes
  • Consuming a high amount of grains and cereals
  • Including lots of dark green leafy vegetables in your diet
  • Keeping dairy intake moderate
  • Cutting down on consumption of meat other than fish
  • Drinking red wine in moderation

With that in mind, choose a few of the recipes we’ve recommended, make a few alterations to incorporate the Mediterranean diet here and there, and get ready to see positive changes in your wellness.

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