Jewish Journal


March 9, 2006

Sonoma Plan Adds   Flavor to Dull Diets


Dr. Connie Guttersen is on a mission to make America smaller. Well, perhaps not geographically, but at least to shrink the size of the average American.

Scientific studies have proven that weight-loss diets that are based on moderate amounts of the healthiest types of fats, such as olive oil, fish and nuts, are more effective long-term than traditional low-fat diets. And since the low-fat diet myth was busted recently with the publication of "The Nurses' Health Study II," the public is struggling to determine what role fat should play in everyday meals.

Guttersen explains that a moderate amount of the best types of fat make healthy foods taste better. This is the basic premise behind her best-selling book, "The Sonoma Diet" (Meredith Books, 2005), a Northern California spin on the Mediterranean diet that also encourages plenty of wine consumption, setting it apart from many other structured diets.

A 2001 weight-loss study cited in the International Journal of Obesity compared a Mediterranean-inspired diet (moderate in fat) to a low-fat diet and found that the Mediterranean-inspired diet had more long-term success when it came to weight loss and participants adhering to it. It also found that vegetable consumption actually went up in the Mediterranean diet group as compared to the group that ate the low-fat version of the diet.

Many low-fat dieters fail to stick with their plan because the foods they're eating simply don't taste good or fail to satisfy their hunger. A common challenge with low-fat diets is that it may also promote an increased dependence or selection of highly refined processed fat-free grains and snacks. This combination is not ideal for individuals challenged by sweet cravings and poor blood glucose control. The Sonoma diet also differs from the famed South Beach Diet in that there is no glycemic index to check.

The type of fat we eat has an affect on health and the success of weight loss more than just focusing on the total amount. Limiting the amount of saturated fats and hydrogenated fats becomes the real issue for healthy weight loss. Saturated fats, such as those found in animal products, tropical oils and hydrogenated fats can actually contribute to obesity and the health related problems associated with being overweight.

The Sonoma Diet, inspired by the Mediterranean and California wine country, combines this healthy way of eating with a weight-loss plan to lose weight and gain health with the most flavorful foods. Beyond low-fat diets, The Sonoma Diet focuses on the ideal balance and type of healthy fats, such as extra-virgin olive oil and almonds in combination with lean meats, wholesome grains, fruits, low-fat dairy and colorful vegetables. Although there is much discussion as to whether a diet should be low fat, low carb or even high protein, The Sonoma Diet recognizes the need to clear away the confusion and form a comprehensive approach.

An eating plan with the healthiest foods in the smartest combinations maximizes the health benefits of all foods absorbed and boosts weight loss. For example, combining a medley of roasted peppers and tomatoes with a tasty vinaigrette made with extra-virgin olive oil, not only enhances the flavor, but boosts the body's ability to absorb the antioxidants contained in the peppers and tomatoes. A salad of baby spinach and other dark greens sprinkled with toasted almonds makes for a delicious and smart combination when it comes to health. An herb-marinated flank steak served with roasted broccoli sprinkled with toasted almonds, and wild rice is another great way to enhance the health and flavor in these foods.

"These combinations are not only delicious, but they enhance the protective qualities of these foods so as to reduce risk factors associated with many diseases such as heart disease and cancer," Guttersen explained.

Heart Disease

A diet inspired by the Mediterranean lifestyle, with a moderate amount of fat, is more effective in reducing cardiovascular risk factors as compared to the conventional low-fat diets. Monounsaturated fats, such as extra-virgin olive oil, avocados and nuts contain healthy fatty acids, antioxidants and unique phytochemicals that have been found to offer more cardiovascular protection when it comes to atherosclerosis, stroke and inflammation.


Studies have confirmed that a Mediterranean diet, characterized by high consumption of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, lean meats and healthy fats, such as olive oil and nuts, protects against cancer. Many of the healthy fats contribute their own antioxidants as well enhance the protective actions of other nutrients found in fruits and vegetables which act us a protective factor against cancer risk factors.


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