“I’m nutty for nutrition. I’ve become one of those people who can’t stop talking about the connection between food and health. Now that I know how much changing what you eat can transform your life, I can’t stop proselytizing.”1 – Robin Quivers
Get the skinny about fat: What is good fat?
Well, contrary to popular belief, the answer is not olive oil. Let’s start with what we know: Everyone knows that too much butter isn’t good for you and that fried foods aren’t top on the healthy list. We also know that we shouldn’t get too much cholesterol and saturated fats. We know that fat IS important. Essential fatty acids are, well…essential. Our bodies cannot create these fats on their own and therefore must obtain them through outside sources. Fatty acids make up part of the structure of our cells, are important for disease prevention, and brain function. They can effect our moods and behaviors.2
After writing this post, I realized I wasn’t saying everything that I wanted to say about fat. I think this quote from Jonny Bowden’s book “The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth” is a great summary:
“Here are the take-home points:
- Saturated fat is not always bad. Some forms of saturated fat–for example, the kind in coconut–are very healthy. While you don’t want to overdo it, you also don’t need to avoid saturated fat like it’s poison. It’s not.
- Trans fat, however, is. Metabolic poison, that is. It’s found in cookies, crackers, baked goods, snacks, doughnuts, French fries, and most margarines. Regardless of what the label says, if it says “partially hydrogenated oil in the ingredients, it’s got trans fat. Don’t eat trans fats. Period…
- Monosaturated fat–found in nuts and olive oil is good stuff and heart healthy.
- Polyunsaturated fats come in two “flavors” : omega-6s and omega-3s. While there are some health benefits to omega-6s, we get too many omega-6s and not enough omega-3s. ” 3
Let’s go into a little more detail. For the sake of this step…
Refined oil = bad fat
Since our goal is to eat whole foods, refined oils (including olive oil) are off of the list. They are excluded from the “whole food” category because they are extracted from the source food. Olive oil, for example is squeezed out to of the olive.
Saturated and Trans-fats = bad fat
As Bowden puts it, not all saturated fat is bad, but we shouldn’t get out of hand. Animal products, including light and dark meats, eggs, fish and dairy byproducts contain mostly saturated fat, which is high in cholesterol. Regarding these fats, quality is important.
Trans fats are found in processed foods and should be avoided as much as possible. Bowden labels them as poison, reminding us to think of them with caution.
Dietary fats= good fats
Recent studies have found that diets rich in nuts and seeds (high in omega-3 fatty acids) protect against heart disease including lowering total blood cholesterol!4 This sounds like such an oxymoron. Good fats actually protect against heart disease and lower cholesterol, while bad fats increase our chance of heart disease! High-quality fish is also rich with omega-3 fatty acids. 2
So, does this mean that we have to cut out ALL yummy processed foods and become vegan. No! Most people (including myself) are not willing to go this far. That’s OK. I hesitate to recommend that anyone cut out any one type of food entirely (except processed food; categorization as “food” is questionable).
Let’s work together to limit the “bad fats” as much as possible. Take it a step at a time. For this step, focus on eating the good fats and use the techniques we’ll provide to reduce the amount of oil you use in cooking and baking recipes.
The key is to get your fats from whole foods, and not extracted oils or Trans-fats. Whole foods like nuts (especially walnuts), seeds (especially flax seed), soy beans and avocado are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. High-quality fish and eggs are also a good source.
- Include healthy fats into your diet, about 1/4 cup (or 1 handful) of nuts per day. 1-2 Tbsp of ground flaxseed.
- Serve nuts or nut-based dressings on your salad (recipes forthcoming)
- Eat a handful of nuts with breakfast or sprinkle on your cereal.
- Add a couple tablespoons flax seed in your baking as a nutritional additive or egg-replacer (soon to come). It is virtually tasteless, but adds beneficial fats and can replace oil and/or eggs in recipes.
- Slice avocado on your salad or into smoothies
- Use water to sauté vegetables. Instead of oil, place a few tablespoons of water in the bottom of the pan to cook vegetables.
- Use applesauce in baking in place of oil. In many recipes, like muffins, replace ½ or all of the oil with applesauce. The texture will change slightly, but give it a shot and see what you think.
- Start reducing the amount of animal products you consume (including meat, fish and dairy). We will go into these in more detail in a future step, but it doesn’t hurt to get started now. As you eat larger portions of vegetables, you will naturally reduce the amount of animal products that you are consuming. Again, cutting animal products out completely is not necessary and may not be the most healthful. More on that in a future post.
- REDUCE, REDUCE, REDUCE the amount of processed foods that you eat. Stay on the periphery of the grocery store if you can-that’s where the fresh vegetables, milk and frozen foods are located.
You are making great progress! Proper knowledge about nutrition is half of the challenge. Give yourself a few weeks if needed on any step, but keep moving forward. Please leave any comments or questions below. We’d be happy to help!
- Read more at http://www.brainyquote.com/search_results.html#UzXREqgBPAbt3kwj.99
- Fuhrman, Joel, M.D. Eat to Live: The Amazing Nutrient-Rich Program for Fast and Sustained Weight Loss, Revised Edition. Little, Brown and Company; 2011: 122-123.
- Jonny Bowden, PhD., CNS. The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth: The Surprising, Unbiased Truth about What You Should Eat and Why. Fair Winds Press; 2007: 10.
- Fu FB, Stampfer MJ. Nut consumption and risk of coronary heart disease: a review of epidemiologic evidence. Curr Atheroscler Rep. 1999 Nov; 1 93): 204-9.