One of the most dangerous types of fat in the body, but I’m here to tell you that you don’t have to live with it. You don’t need to spend another day agonizing over your waistline and worrying about your rising disease risk, because them is an antidote to belly fat: MUFAS, otherwise known as monounsaturated fatty acids. There are five categories of M U FAs.

  • 1. OILS
  • 2. OLIVES
  • 4. AVOCADOS S.

These miraculous foods hold the power to transform your body and your life. How? It’s all in the name. UFA stands for monounsaturated fatty acid—a mouthful, I know—but to nutritionists like Cynthia, that mumbo jumbo perfectly describes why these plant-based fats are so healthful. Fatty acids am essentially the building blocks of all dietary fats, and like all organic elements, they’re composed of atoms of carbon, oxygen, and hydrogen, all lined up in a particular way to form a chain.

The term saturated is used when every one of the carbon atoms in the chain is bound to a hydrogen atom. This makes them solid or waxy at room temperature; in your body, they’re sticky and inflexible. Unsaturated fat is one that isn’t so tightly constructed and is, therefore, more flexible—this flexibility is the reason that unsaturated fats are *good’s and saturated fats are ‘had.” Think of saturated fats as sticks and unsaturated fats as strings. As saturated fats travel through your arteries, they bump and grind their way through, often getting stuck along the way.

A recent study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found that eating a meal high in saturated fat actually reduced the ability of blood vessels to expand and impaired blood flow.’ This effect occurred just 3 hours after eating. Likewise, numerous studies have linked a long-term high intake of saturated fat to an increased risk of atherosclerosis heart disease, stroke, and other chronic diseases.

Since MUFAs are unsaturated (i.e., more flexible), they can easily glide through your bloodstream without gumming up the works. This flexibility is just one reason why MUFAs are so healthful; a growing body of research indicates they may actually help to unclog and protect arteries from buildup.

MUFAs Make It Big

To REALLY UNDERSTAND how MUFAs rose to nutritional stardom and why an M U FA at every meal” is such an important part of the Flat Belly Diet, I have to take you on a brief journey of the history of MUFAs (if you’ve been to Disney World, think Hall of Presidents, only about fats!). Once upon a time, in the not so distant past, all fats were sort of lumped together as being bad or fattening.

Recommendations from health professionals and the government based on the relationship between fats and heart disease were first introduced in the 1950s.3 Ever since then, the emphasis has been on lowering saturated fat specifically, and the overall message has been to reduce total fat intake. One of the main tenets of the 1,980 Dietary Guidelines was “Avoid too much fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol.”3 These government guidelines are revised every 5 years, but that wording remained in the next three versions.

A full 15 years later, the 1995 report still stated, “Fat, whether from plant or animal sources, contains more than twice the number of calories of an equal amount of carbohydrate or protein. 

This emphasis on total fat and the ‘less than 30 percent” wording left many people thinking “the less the better,” creating scores of fat-phobic consumers who shunned not only butter and well-marbled meats but also vegetable oils, nuts, and peanut butter. This was a constant source of frustration for Cynthia, who knew about the dangers of cutting fat too low and had studied the health benefits of plant-based oils.

The 2000 Dietary Guidelines were slightly less restrictive. It wasn’t until a few years ago, in the 2005 Dietary Guidelines, that a minimum fat recommendation finally appeared’.

The word-ing about fat in this version of the guidelines states, ”Keep total fat intake between 20 to 35 percent of calories, with most fats coming from sources of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fatty acids: Cynthia practically did cartwheels when she read it, particularly because she knew there was exciting research supporting the idea that not all fats were created equal.

The “Eat Less Fat” Backlash

STUDIES FROM THE 1950S to 1970s had indicated that high total fat intake was associated with a greater risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD). According to the American Heart Association, CVD has been the number one killer in the United States every year for more than a century. 

“Good” Fats to the Rescue

CLEARLY, THE ‘EAT LESS FAT” message wasn’t the answer, and in the 1990s, scientists started to pay attention to the theory that eating moderate amounts of some types of fats could actually be protective, an idea first proposed by a University of Minnesota scientist named Ancel Keys. PhD. in his report called the Seven Countries Study.

Between 1958 and 1970. Keys followed populations of men ages 40 to 59 in 18 areas of seven countries (the United States. Japan. Italy, Greece, the Nether-lands, Finland, and Yugoslavia). His study looked at the men’s diets, disease risk factors and disease rates. It was the first to look at the links between diets and disease outcomes in different populations. The study was so important because it demonstrated the degree to which the composition of the diet could predict rates of coronary heart disease.

The major conclusion was that —hello!—a high fat intake was not associated with higher rates of heart disease. The standout area was Crete. the largest of the Greek. Cretan men had the lowest rates of heart disease of all populations observed in the Seven Countries Study, as well as the highest average life span, despite consuming 37 percent of their calories from fat (Finland and the United States had the highest number of deaths from heart disease).

Throughout the study, Keys observed that the Cretans’ diets were consistent. They consumed the same types of traditional Greek meals they had been enjoying for centuries, including lots of fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans, fish, moderate amounts of wine and cheese, small quantities of grass-fed meat, milk, eggs, some whole grains, and plenty of MU FA-rich olive oil and olives. Cretan people consume on average 25 liters of olive oil per person each year.

Viva la Olive Oil

THE FASCINATING FINDINGS in Crete put olive oil at center stage, and finally, the idea that some fats are healthful began to gain acceptance. Dozens of Mediterranean diet studies focusing on olive oil followed, with amazing conclusions. A Greek study concluded that the exclusive use of olive oil was associated with a 47 percent lower likelihood of having cardiovascular disease, even after adjustments were made to account for BM I, smoking, physical activity level, educational status, a family history of heart disease, high blood pressure. high cholesterol, and diabetes.

Numerous controlled studies have found that olive oil can lower circulating LDL levels, or prevent cholesterol from hardening. That’s critical because hardening is the beginning of the domino effect that results in disease. But as more and more studies were conducted, it became clear that while olive oil is amazingly healthful, a great deal of its protective power lies in its MUFAs, which are also found in other plant fats, including nuts and avocado. Eventually, research began to shift from olive oil to MUFAs and led to findings that M U FA protection extends far beyond cholesterol and heart disease.

MUFAs have now been linked to reduced rates of type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, breast cancer, and inflammation, plus healthier blood pressure, brain function, lung function, body weight, and—you guessed it—belly fat. In fact, when Cynthia showed me the stack of published studies on MUFAs specifically, I could hardly believe my eyes—it was at least as thick as this entire book. So in the interest of not overwhelming you, I’ve included a few of the most compelling studies. I think this summary will help you see why we’re so over the moon about N1U PM.

MUFAs Protect Your Heart

French scientists tested the effects of replacing some dietary carbohydrates with MUFAs without reducing calories. They found that the MUFA-rich diet produced better effects on blood triglyceride levels and other markers for cardiovascular disease.”

■ Johns, Hopkins researchers compared the effects of three healthful diets. each with reduced saturated fat intake, on blood pressure and blood fat levels over 6 weeks, without allowing for weight loss ” The first diet was rich in carbohydrates, the second high in protein and the third high in MUFAS. They found that the protein and M UFA diets further lowered blood pressure, improved blood fat levels, and reduced the estimated risk of CVD.

■ Pennsylvania State University faculty compared the CVD risk profile of an average American diet to four different cholesterol-lowering diets: an Ameri-can Heart Association/National Cholesterol Education Program Step II diet and three high-MUPA diets.” The Step II diet and all of the high-MUM diets lowered total cholesterol by 10 percent and LDI.

■ University of Barcelona scientists compared the short-term effects of two Mediterranean diets versus a low-fat diet on markers of cardiovascular risk?’ Compared with the low-fat diet, the mean changes in blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol were significantly better in both the MUFA-rich olive oil-based Mediterranean diet and the MUM-rich, nut-based Mediterranean groups.
The research on MUFAs and heart health is so compelling that a daily MUFA target has now become part of the standard scientific protocol for preventing and managing C1/1) risk. The Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes (TLC) plan, developed by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (a branch of the National Institutes of Health), is designed to reduce the risk of coronary very heart disease. with saturated fat at no more than 7 percent of calories and MUFA up to 20 percent of total calories.

MUFAs Ward Off Type 2 Diabetes

■ Spanish researchers studied the effects of three weight-maintenance diets on carbohydrate and fat metabolism and insulin levels in overweight subjects by randomly assigning them to 28-day diets high in either saturated fat, monounsaturated fat. Fast blood sugar levels fell on both the MUM-rich and cub-rich diets, but the MUFA diet also improved insulin sensitivity and boosted I I DI. cholesterol levels.

■ At Indiana University, scientists treated type 2 diabetes patients with either a MUM-rich weight-reducing diet and or a low-fat, high-carbohydrate weight-loss diet for a 6-week period.” Both groups lost pounds, but the MUFA group had a greater decrease in total cholesterol and triglyceride levels and a smaller drop in I WI. cholesterol—and those results were sustained even after the group was allowed to regain the weight.


These marvelous monounsaturated fat-packed foods can help you Iwo a long, healthy life with less belly fat. But these foods also provide a host of other beneficial nutrients.

1. Oils

Flaxseed and walnut oil are both rich sources of alpha-linolenic acid. which your body converts into omega-3 fatty acids.

Extra virgin olive oil has strong antibacterial properties and can even kill H. pylori, the bacterium that causes most peptic ulcers and some types Of Stomach cancer.” In addition, olive oil contains phytochemicals called POInatenols. which also helps prevent cardiovascular disease and cancer and reduce inflammation in the body. Canela, sesame, sunflower, safflower, and soybean oils are all rich in vitamin E.

2. Olives

In addition to their MUFAs, olives are a good source of iron, vitamin E, copper and fiber (to regulate your digestive system, help control blood sugar levels, and manage blood cholesterol.

3. Nuts and Seeds

Like oils, the health benefits of the Flat Belly nuts and seeds are numerous and varied. Sunflower Seeds are a Good Source of kinetic acid. In a recent study, women who had the highest intakes of lin Cilek acid had a 23 percent lower risk of heart disease. compared with those with the lowest intakes.” The omega-3 fatty acids in walnuts have been linked to protection against inflammation.

Heart disease, asthma, and arthritis and Improved cognitive function. And pistachios have been shown to help keep blood pressure down in stressful situations. Overall, nuts and seeds are good sources of many key nutrients, including protein, fiber, iron, zinc. magnesium, copper. B vitamins, and vitamin E.

4. Avocados

Avocados are packed with totem, which may help maintain healthy eyes. as well as beta-sites rot. a natural plant sterol that may help keep cholesterol down. Adding avocado to salads and salsas has been shown to more than double the absorption of carotenoids, antioxidants linked to lower risk of heart disease and macular degeneration, a leading cause of blindness.2′ Avocados are also rich in fiber, vitamin K (which helps clot blood), Potassium and hatt-protective folate.

5. Dark Chocolate

Dark chocolate is rich in flavanols and proanthocyanins, both of which boost good MDL cholesterol levels. It also contains natural substances that help control insulin levels and relax blood vessels. lowering blood pressure, and provides important minerals including Copper, magnesium, potassium, calcium. and iron.


MUFAs Cut Metabolic Syndrome Risk

■ Researchers from the department of medicine at Columbia University in New York studied 52 men and 33 women with metabolic syndrome.” Over 7 weeks they were randomly assigned to either a typical American diet with 36 percent of calories from fat or two additional diets, in which 7 percent of the calories from saturated fat was replaced with either ebony-drate or MUFAs.

They found that LDL cholesterol was reduced with both the lower-saturated-fat diets, but MUFAs protected the HDL and lowered long-articles, which were significantly higher with the high-carbohydrate diet.

MUFAs Reduce Inflammation

MUFAs Reduce Inflammation ALL, inflammation is our immune system’s response to stress, injury, or illness. It a known trigger for premature aging and disease, but MUFAs are effective at quelling its -flames?

■ A Spanish study focused on a large group of men and women at high risk for CVD.23 It found that the consumption of particular Mediterranean foods. including MUFA-rich virgin olive oil and nuts, was associated with lower blood concentrations of inflammatory markers.

■ In an Italian study, the effect of a Mediterranean-style diet on inflammatory markers in patients with metabolic syndrome was studied.” Over wars, researchers randomly assigned nearly 200 men and women with metabolic syndrome to either a Mediterranean-style diet rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables. and M UFA-rich nuts and olive oil, or a ‘prudent” diet composed of 50 to 60 percent carbohydrate. 15 to 20 percent protein, and 30 percent or less fat (the old Dietary Guidelines standard).

After 2 years, patients following the Mediterranean-style diet. who had consumed more total grams of MUFA and fiber per day, had a greater decrease in mean body weight. The high-MUM diet also significantly reduced blood concentrations of inflammatory markers and decreased insulin resistance.

MUFAs Lower Your Risk of Breast Cancer

■ In a study published in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine, scientists from the department of medical epidemiology at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, looked at data on 61,471 women ages 40 to 76 years from two counties in central Sweden who did not have any previous diagnosis of breast cancer.” After following the women over time and evaluating both their diets and incidence of breast cancer, they found an inverse association between MUFAs and breast cancer risk. There was a 45 percent reduction in the risk of developing breast cancer for each 10-gram increment of MUM consumed daily.

MUFAs Keep Your Brain Healthy

■ Scientists in the department of geriatrics in the Center for Aging Brain at the University of Bari in Italy set out to study the relationships between diet and age-related changes in cognitive functions. The researchers looked at a tt7 sample of 5,632 people between the ages of 65 and 84 in eig regions of Italy.26 They used a battery of standardized test live functions.

selective attention, and memory and evaluated the subjects’ diets and found that those with the highest percentage of calories from MUFAs had the greatest protection against cognitive decline.

■ Another Italian study, led by scientists at the center’s Memory Unit, investigated the role of diet in age-related cognitive decline (ARCD) by studying an elderly population in southern Italy that consumed a typical Mediterranean diet.” They also concluded that a high intake of MUFAs warded off ARCD.

MUFAs Extend Your Life

■ Several studies have looked at the link between MUM intake and life expectancy. An 81/4-year follow-up to the Italian Longitudinal Study on Aging investigated the possible role of MUFAs and other foods in protecting against all-cause mortality?’ Among subjects without dementia between the ages of 65 and 84. scientists found that a higher MUM intake was associated with an increase in survival. and there was no effect found in any other selected food group.

MUFAs Target Belly Fat

■ A 2007 study published in the journal Diabetes Care found that an M UFA-rich diet prevented central body fat distribution, compared with a high-carbohydrate and high-saturated-fat diet of the same calorie level.”

■ Australian rowan: hers randomly assigned overweight men to various 4-week diets composed of the same caloric level with different amounts of saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated fat. The MUM-rich diet resulted in lower total body weight and body fat. The authors concluded that a high-MUM diet can induce a significant loss of body weight and fat mass without a change in total calorie or fat intake.

■ Another Aussie study compared postmeal body fat burning rates after two breakfasts: one with saturated fat from cream and one with MUM from olive oil.”3 The M U FA group had a significantly higher fat-burning rate in the 5 hours following the MUM breakfast, particularly in the subjects with greater abdominal fat.

The Other Antidote to Belly Fat: Attitude

OF COURSE, TUE Mat Belly Diet isn’t only about food. Before we get to the eating plan, I want you to understand the one factor that will be key to making your dream of a flat belly come true—and that’s your state of mind. Your emotions, stress level, and body image all play a role in how and when you eat—and even how and where you put on weight.

That’s right—pir emotional state can actually cause you to store belly fat. In the next chapter, we’ll explore this mind-belly connection in depth and reveal the secret to succeeding on the Flat Belly Diet. But for now. let’s bask in the glorious knowledge that flattening your belly may be as easy as drizzling olive oil on your next salad, spreading peanut butter on a cracker, or—oh, yes—licking melted chocolate off your fingertips.


A call for participants In their new Flat Belly Diet turned out to be both timely and an unexpected blessing in so many ways: says Diane Kasparek. The 52-year-old nurse. who also happens to be a cancer survivor. calls her cancer experience a defining time in her life. As she reached the fifth anniversary of her diagnosis, she decided. It’s time to shelve the survivor’s identity. and get on with my MC Part of that decision Included going on the Flat Belly Diet. it was just at that time that I heard about the diet.” she recalls. “so I decided to give myself a 5-year anniversary gill?

Her goal was to shore up her health, shed her excess pounds. and return her body to a complete state of balance. it was one of the first times in my life I had ever done anything that was only for me.” The first weekend on the diet, Diane sent her husband and son off to the beach, and she stayed at home alone to concentrate on the food plan.

“I realized there is a learning curve with it. so I started very methodically, shopping for the food and making the meals and sitting down by myself to enjoy them. I decided to start walking every day, too, and It all just took off from there. -it’s interesting; she says. “As you start to deal with your health issues and get better at it, you start treating yourself better. You connect more to yourself in a tot of different ways.

Even .% mentally you’re feeling better. Things 4h aren’t as overwhelming, maybe because you have more energy.’ She’s in the thrall of that newfound energy. In the past. she used to come home from work and plop onto the sofa at 4 p.m., just In time for Oprah.

“That was it for me—I was done for the evening. I was tired and maybe even a little bit depressed: Things are different now. The food she’s eating and the weight loss has energized her. She’s out evenings and wanting to do more and more. “It’s as if I have gotten back another 6 hours a day of my life,” she says. “I know it’s just a diet, but I feel so good. And I’m so much happier. Cancer takes away some of your control, but now I feel as though I have a handle on a controllable issue.

My body is in a really good equilibrium as far as nutrition. I feel Chimer and more relaxed—like nothing intricacy is going to jump out of the closet at me: Diane lost only 61/2 pounds on the first 32 days of the Flat Belly Diet. but her muscle mass and her body fat percentage changed. She feels losing slowly is a good thing. to I want to lose more? Sure,” she says.

But I realized in the big picture, that’s just how it is. You don’t gain it or lose it overnight. I really feel as though I’ve got some fabulous new habits that will stay with me. And I’m going to keep going until I lose every Pound I set out to lose.


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