It’s all about the fats you choose

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Do you remember the fat-free craze that happened years ago? Research at the time correlated too much fat in the diet with heart disease and obesity. As a result, food companies hopped on the fat-free bandwagon, and fat-free cereal, crackers, granola and more were born.

Then what happened? Heart-related chronic illnesses, obesity and type 2 diabetes skyrocketed. That may seem illogical. If fat was seen as resulting in heart disease, and we got rid of fat, why did the problems get worse?

Food companies removed the fat, which removed the flavor. Flavor was added back into the product in the form of sugar, refined carbohydrates and sodium. This causes a steep rise and fall in blood sugar, creating a cycle of eating foods that could not sustain you to the next meal. What’s more interesting is the research comparing low-fat diets to the Mediterranean diet. Research tells us that low-fat diets don’t work. The body needs fat to absorb some nutrients and helps to tell your brain you are full and satisfied. Not all fats are the same, however.

At this point in time, I likely will not receive lots of criticism for telling you that low-fat diets don’t work; however, it might rattle the ideas of “healthy” when I tell you that not all fats are healthy. Just because it is a “natural” fat does not make it healthy. Animal products, butter and coconut oil are all sources of saturated fat.

According to the World Health Organization and American Heart Association, replacing saturated fat with unsaturated fats can improve cholesterol levels and lipid profiles. When you hear public health professionals and nutritionists refer to “healthy fats,” they aren’t talking about coconut oil and butter. They’re talking about fats that are liquid at room temperature such as olive oil, canola oil, vegetable oil and even foods such as avocados and fish. Limiting and replacing your saturated fats with unsaturated fats can get you on the right path to better health.

The Mediterranean diet is an eating pattern that focuses on lots of fruits, vegetables and healthy fats. These healthy fats help keep you full and satisfied, thus helping you to eat less without starving yourself. Those who follow the principles of the Mediterranean diet have a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity, Alzheimer’s and macular eye degeneration. It’s very simple. Just focus on and eat lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats and lean proteins. It’s OK to have red meat, the occasional dessert and use butter every now and then. I will never tell you to completely cut anything out of your diet, and the Mediterranean diet will not do that either.

Eat mostly healthy stuff and a little bit of your favorite indulgence. People always want to know what I eat and don’t eat. I tell them that I eat everything — and I do! I practice what I preach because I want others to be encouraged and know that you don’t have to punish yourself in order to be healthy.

I eat lots of whole grains, fruit and vegetables. I eat lots of beans and peanut butter. I am not vegetarian, but I do try to limit my meat consumption and choose lean options. I also like to indulge in dark chocolate or dessert every now and then. I use olive oil, canola oil or vegetable oil in nearly everything I cook. I drink lots of water, sometimes flavored with various fruits, and I stay active. That really is my life in a nutshell, and it’s something easy to do — even when you are on the road a lot, work late nights, and have maybe three hours of free-time in a seven-day period.

If you want to learn more about the Mediterranean diet or are interested in food and nutrition classes, contact me at cdhobbs3@ncsu.edu or by calling the Wilson County Cooperative Extension at 252-237-0111. Until then, practice eating Mediterranean with these delicious fish tacos with avocado-mango salsa: http://medinsteadofmeds.com/.fish-tacos-avocado-mango-salsa/.

Fish Tacos with Avocado-Mango Salsa

1 tablespoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon paprika

1/2 teaspoon chili powder

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 pound mahi mahi fillets

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 cup sliced avocado

2/3 cup finely chopped peeled ripe mango

1/4 cup chopped green onions

1/4 cup finely chopped red onion

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro

1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

8 (6-inch) whole-wheat tortillas (can be substituted for corn tortillas)

Mix together the cumin, salt, paprika, chili powder and garlic and rub over the fish.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add olive oil to a hot pan.

Add fish to pan and cook for 2 minutes on each side or until done. Remove from heat. Keep warm.

In a medium bowl, combine avocado, mango, green and red onions, cilantro and lime juice to make salsa.

Warm tortillas over a hot pan for 30 seconds on each side or until warm.

Separate fish into pieces and divide evenly among tortillas.

Top with 2 tablespoons of salsa on each taco.

Med Instead of Meds