The main sources of fat in the traditional Mediterranean diet come from olive oil, nuts and fish, and these foods are eaten in moderation, said Heather Mangieri, a nutrition consultant and spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association. In the new study, people ate a handful of nuts each day, Mangieri said.
Because many Americans today eat a relatively poor diet nutrition-wise, even just incorporating a few aspects of the Mediterranean diet into their current way of eating would be a "massive improvement over what Americans are eating now," said Deborah Enos, a certified nutritionist and a health coach in the Seattle area.
Mangieri agreed, saying that the best way to switch to a traditional Mediterranean diet is to start slowly by making a few changes, such as increasing the number of fruits and vegetables you consume every day, and eating a serving of fish once a week.
While nuts and seeds are a source of omega-3 fatty acids, a type of "healthy fat," it's not clear how much of this healthy fat we actually get by eating them, Mangieri said. That's because these foods actually contain alpha-linolenic acid, a compound our bodies convert to omega-3 fatty acids. It's unclear how efficient this process is, so the total amount of omega-3s we get from nuts and seeds may not be very much. Because of this, the best sources of omega-3s are fatty fish such as salmon, sardines and trout. Fish like salmon have more calories than white-fleshed fish, so limit your portion of the fatty fish to 3 to 4 ounces a serving, Mangieri said.