Fat is good
Fat is one of the most misunderstood components of a healthy diet. The belief that fat is fattening and increases our risk of heart disease has long been ingrained. It makes sense doesn’t it? Something that fills us up and makes food taste better must have its consequences. Well, I’m here to tell you that it’s possible to eat a high fat diet, lose weight and protect against heart disease at the same time. In fact, some of the healthiest people in the world eat high fat diets.
Low-fat diets have long been touted as the best for weight loss and heart health but these diets and the products associated with them haven’t been very effective in the long term. The Mediterranean Diet has been rated the #1 diet by the U.S. News & World Report for the past four years in a row. And guess what? It’s a high fat diet.
Father of the Food Pyramid
So why have we been taught for so long that fat is bad? Well, it begins with an American doctor named Ancel Keys who was eager to prove his hypothesis. Keys believed that eating more fat would increase your risk of heart disease. So in the late 1950s, Keys traveled to 22 countries around the world to prove it. When Keys visited the island of Crete, he discovered that the rates of heart disease were incredibly low and the people there were living much longer than the average American. Keys looked at their diets and found that they consumed relatively low amounts of fat compared to other types of food.
Keys was excited. He figured that this proved that eating low fat was linked to a lower risk of heart disease. But without knowing, Keys had travelled to Crete during a season where fat was being consumed much, much less than the rest of the year. Eager for evidence, Keys didn’t consider his timing. He would then go on to help create the Food Pyramid we are all familiar with, which advises us to use fat very sparingly as part of a healthy diet.
But this is just untrue.
Today, scientific evidence is proving that Keys’s Food Pyramid is flawed. Eating more fat is healthy as long as it is coming from a healthy source like extra virgin olive oil.
The Wonders of EVOO
The truth is, if Keys had looked at a Cretan person’s diet over a full year, he would have seen that they actually eat high fat diets with the vast majority of their fat coming from high quality extra virgin olive oil. On average, people in Crete consume more than 20 times more olive oil than the typical American consumes. They have lower rates of heart disease and are living longer.
In 2020, researchers at Harvard University published a study that found that men and women with a higher consumption of olive oil had an 18% lower risk of heart disease. They analyzed over 24 years of data and found that replacing just one teaspoon of margarine, butter, or mayonnaise with olive oil resulted in a 5% to 7% lower risk of cardiovascular or coronary heart disease.
In regards to weight loss, diets that are high in healthy fat tend to be more sustainable. The acceptable foods and dishes are more filling, which means people are less apt to snack between meals. Dieters also find they are more energized throughout the day because the body metabolizes fat slower. When it comes to losing weight and keeping it off, a sustainable diet plan like the Mediterranean Diet is going to get you there.
The Bottom Line & Five High Fat Recipes
Eating fat can be really good for you if you are mindful about the types of fat you eat. The Mediterranean Diet is a prime example of a diet that is high in fat but is also heart healthy and great for weight loss. By changing our perceptions about eating fat we can have healthy, sustainable diets that we enjoy.
Here are five Cretan recipes from Koula Barydakis that are super healthy and high in fat.
Greek Lemon and Garlic Potatoes
Greek Moussaka – Eggplant Lasagna
Zucchini Fritters with Feta, Cheddar, Mint and Parsley
Lemony Shrimp Salad with Parsley
Olive Oil Cake with Lemon Zest