Obviously the Mediterranean diet is considered one of the healthiest if not the healthiest diet in the world. Besides the fact that numerous studies support the benefits, this diet is real, meaning it uses real food and at the same time it is palatable. You won’t hear anything about limiting your fat to 20% or eating tiny portions. The secret is the actual food. Yes, mostly plant foods with olive oil make a healthy diet plan. Let’s see how to do it in 5 steps.
Step 1. Don’t be afraid of olive oil.
Yes olive oil has antioxidants and is one of the best sources of the good monounsaturated fat. Most recommendations advise using olive oil as your main source of fat, but you need quite a bit, not just 1 teaspoon to make all those vegetables tasty. That may sound scary especially as we’ve been taught to be afraid of fat and use small amounts, but the reality is that combining olive oil with vegetables will give a medium caloric dish. Dr. Antonia Trichopoulou, M.D., Ph.D., Professor of Preventative Medicine and Nutrition at the University of Athens Medical School and Director of WHO Collaborating Center for Nutrition in Greece, and one of the developers of the Mediterranean Pyramid, had told me that “Certainly olive oil has many calories, but a diet can be followed that can include oil while staying within normal limits calorie wise”.
The Mediterranean diet is not a low fat diet, 40 percent of the calories come from fat, much higher compared to the 30 percent recommended in a conventional diet. Isn’t that too much? No, according to Trichopoulou as long as the fat comes from olive oil. “The rule –lower your fat intake– did not concern the Mediterranean, but Northern Europeans who consumed large amounts of saturated fat: butter, high fat meat and cheese. In Greece this rule had a completely different meaning; olive oil can be limited, but up to a point where the food is still tasteful”.
So yes you can eat olive oil everyday and not gain weight, as long as you combine it with vegetables that have very few calories resulting in a balanced caloric meal.
- You can add olive oil to your food; a rule of thumb is about ¼ cup olive oil to 1 pound of vegetables.
- Remember that when cooking vegetables there is always some oil left behind on the plate, so you are not actually getting those calories from the oil.
- No dipping all that leftover oil with bread.
On our next post we’ll discuss the next step: Eating more cooked vegetables.