I’m all about eating fat. It’s been banished in the nutrition world in the past, but now it’s time for fat to shine! The set-back that I see readers come across though is, which type of fat is the good type of fat? This week I created a guide to healthy fats that will help you figure out what the heck to eat.
To take it a step further, this question arises: how much fat should we be consuming in our daily meal plan to take advantage of the health benefits? In the past, it’s been popular to be on a “low-fat” diet. In recent nutritional articles and journal reports though, it is recommended to eat a reasonable amount of healthy fats. We need healthy fats for their nutrient value to support bodily functions, to give us energy, and let’s not forget the beauty benefits (healthy hair, skin and nails)! Good types of fats are so important for our all over health, that they are considered macronutrients. So now you’re probably wondering…
Guide to Healthy Fats: What types of healthy fats should we eat?
Here’s the low-down on which fats to look out for: unsaturated fats are considered “healthy” fats, and saturated fats should be limited. There are, although, conflicting studies that show that small amounts of saturated fats found in animal products can also be good for you – the jury is still out for the majority on this one. Another curve ball: “trans fats” which are technically an unsaturated fat, are not considered to fall under the healthy fats category. See how confusing nutrition can be?!
Unsaturated Fats consists of monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats which are known to raise the good cholesterol (HDL) and lower the bad (LDL). My favorite unsaturated fat though (which falls under the polyunsaturated fat category) is Omega-3, which we all have heard about before!
Omega 3’s can come from both animal and plant sources, and is an essential fatty acid that we cannot produce on our own. We need to consume it via food (or really great quality supplements)! There are different types of omega 3’s, but we can get into that subject later.
So to recap, focus on including more unsaturated fats into your diet!
What are the benefits of healthy fats?
Beauty benefits: Healthy fats have natural anti-inflammatory benefits and have even shown (1) to slow down the signs of aging. High intake of monounsaturated fats have also been linked to increased skin elasticity! Polyunsaturated fats (specifically omega-3’s) have also been shown to give us UV protection. How FABULOUS is this for our skin?! In general, consuming fat in our diet ensures that our skin will not be dry and chapped.
Protects your heart and can lower cholesterol: One study showed that heart attack survivors greatly reduced their risk of experiencing another heart attack when supplementing with fish oils. Omega-3 also helps lower cholesterol which will also prevent individuals from experiencing heart attacks.
Keeps your brain functioning at top speed: We need healthy fats in our diet to help us metabolize vitamins like A, D, and E which support a healthy brain. If we focus on diets that are low-fat, we could be robbing our brain of the proper fuel needed to support our memory, mood and more.
Guide to Healthy Fats: High-Fat Foods.
Now that you know what the deal is with what types of fats to consume, let’s take a look at some of the high-fat foods you can eat.
Liquid oils: Olive oil, coconut oil (even though coconut oil is a saturated fat, Doctors and authority health figures still say it’s healthy to consume in moderation), and sesame oil. Try using more of these oils in your recipes; sesame oil in your stir fry, olive oil in your dips and salad dressings; coconut oil in your pie crust and cookie recipes.
Plant Based Choices: Nuts like walnuts & almonds, seeds like flax-seed and chia, and legumes like beans and lentils all contain healthy fats that we need. I have a myraid of plant-based recipes that are packed with these types of foods that you can make today to enjoy the benefits of healthy fats:
Fatty fish and fish oil: If you are pescetarian or add fish to your diet, choose options such as tuna, sardines or salmon. Fatty fish contain essential fatty acids and also adequate amounts of protein.
The consensus on butter: Surprisingly, butter is fast becoming known as a healthy fat because it has both Omegas 3 & 6 which our bodies can’t produce. Plus vitamins A, D & E. It’s a “dairy” trans fat that is gaining respect because it doesn’t fall into the “processed food” trans fat category and also contains monounsaturated fat. Still, most of us limit its consumption due to being in the trans fat category. I personally like “Ghee” butter as an alternative to butter.
Where Do Avocado and Dark Chocolate Fall Under Healthy Fats?
Even those these fall under the trans fat category, the overall healthy benefits of dark chocolate and avocado outweigh the trans fat limitation. Both contain antioxidants. And the higher the cocoa content in your dark chocolate choice, the better the healthy fat benefit. Avocados contain 20 different vitamins and minerals and low in saturated fat.
A Word About Palm Oil
Popular as a trans fat alternative, most store bought palm oil is processed (or oxidized) which is considered a negative and many health advocates believe it poses a danger to our health. And according to environmentalists, palm trees are being cut down at an alarming rate to satisfy the use for palm oil which includes cosmetics, detergents and packaged (processed) foods.
So next time you plan your meals for the week, think about what types of healthy fats you can include in every meal and enjoy the benefits they bring!