Healthy Fat Sources in the Mediterranean Diet – Healthy Fat Series Part 1

What are the Different Types of Fat?

When people refer to healthy fats or good fats, they are typically referring to unsaturated fats. Unsaturated fats consist of monounsaturated fats (MUFAs) and polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs). Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are both polyunsaturated fats, but they’re a little more unique than other fats. Our bodies can make any fat it needs except for these two, making them considered essential fatty acids that have to be consumed from our diet. Saturated fats and trans fats are usually seen as bad fats.

What are the Benefits of Fat?

There are so many reasons why you should be incorporating healthy fat into your diet. Fats help keep you full, as well as making you feel more satiated after consuming a meal. Fats like MUFAs and PUFAs can even help to decrease your LDL (bad) cholesterol and risk of certain diseases, like cardiovascular disease (1,2). Other fats can help decrease blood glucose spikes after meals, which can be beneficial to those with type 2 diabetes (3). Overall, adding more healthy fats to your diet can be very beneficial for your health.

The Mediterranean Diet and Fat

When it comes to the Mediterranean diet, it is recognized as a healthy eating pattern by the US Dietary Guidelines (4). The Mediterranean diet is unique because it has an emphasis on healthy fats. One of the main components of the Mediterranean diet is extra virgin olive oil, which is a great source of monounsaturated fat. Other fat sources that are commonly consumed in the Mediterranean diet are nuts, seeds, olive, and fatty fish.

Let's dive a little deeper into the main fat sources in the Mediterranean diet.

Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) and Olives

Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) is one of the primary fat sources in the Mediterranean diet and is used in many dishes. It can be used to cook, bake, or fry food. It’s also a great option to drizzle on top of salads, cooked fish, or fresh vegetables. Olives are also often consumed in the Mediterranean diet. The main fat source found in olives and extra virgin olive oil is monounsaturated fats.

Nuts and Seeds

Nuts commonly consumed in the Mediterranean diet typically consist of almonds, pistachios, cashews, walnuts, chestnuts, pine nuts, and hazelnuts. Nuts are a great source of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, as well as omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Seeds like sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, flax seeds, and sunflower seeds are also packed with healthy fats. Seeds are typically highest in monounsaturated fats, but also contain polyunsaturated fats. Some seeds like flaxseed are also a great source of omega-3 fatty acids.

Fatty Fish

Fish that are classified as fatty fish include salmon, trout, tuna, sardines, and mackerel. Fatty fish is one of the main food sources with omega-3 fatty acids, and they even contain some of the most important types of omega-3’s that our bodies need.

The Mediterranean diet has been around for centuries and is rich in many healthy fat sources. Because healthy fats are so important for our health, that could be one of the reasons why the Mediterranean diet yields such great health benefits.

Written by Isabelle Hammack
Reviewed by Kelly Powers, MA, RDN, a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist who takes a holistic approach to nutrition and health. Kelly is a recipe developer with a food blog highlighting whole foods, simple recipes, and her life in San Francisco. She’s the creator of 52 Weeks, a weekly meal plan program that helps users get back in the kitchen and feed themselves well. Kelly is also a co-founder of Olivaio.