Did I grab your attention with that one? I take that statement back. I loathe the word skinny.
Fats made me Thin. Or perhaps Fats made me Fit.
At any rate, after many years of being very aware of food and fitness and body weight and of course the trends of all those different facets, I now get it. Fats are good for you. In fact, I’ll go so far as saying fats are like a superfood™! You need them!
If you are old enough to remember the “Fat-Free Marketing Craze“, you may already have headway into what I’m saying here.
I can’t begin to tell you how many people I’ve talked with who have shared that they eat minimal fat in their diet, are “afraid” to eat fat or make an effort to avoid fat. I used to be one of these people.
Rewind to the “Fat-Free Marketing Craze”.
Toward the end of high school and on into college, I had fallen victim to this “Fat-Free Marketing Craze”. I bought Snackwell’s brand “cookies” for my sweet cravings, dipped “fat-free” pretzels into “fat free” Cool Whip™ as my favorite snack and loaded up on fruits because most of them are “fat free”. Peanut butter was a “no-no” along with chocolate, oils of any sort, in fact, I even remember putting ketchup on my salads at one point because ketchup is “fat free”! (Ugh, what was I thinking!) Perhaps this was borderline disordered eating, but that’s a different post for a different time.
The point here is this–I avoided fats because they would make me fat…or so I thought! Interestingly enough, I was the same body weight then as I am now.
I love this article posted by Fitness Magazine where they refer to fat as the f-word! It’s so truthful and to the point. “Fats help you absorb vitamins A, D, and E, and they are vital for your nervous system,” quotes Barbara Roberts, MD, director of the Women’s Cardiac Center at the Miriam Hospital in Providence and author of How to Keep from Breaking Your Heart. The catch here is to pick the right kind of fats.
Here’s the 411.
There are two basic kinds of fat: saturated and unsaturated. (Keep in mind the idea of “things in moderation are ok” not necessarily “everything in moderation”. Remember, anything eaten in excess–more calories than your body actually needs–will turn into fat). But nonetheless, not all fats are created equal! Please, read on!
Your body needs fat to survive! In fact, there are several vitamins, that without fat in your body, will not be able to be absorbed properly thus leaving your body deficient of these vitamins! (Vitamins A, D, & E and fats aid with the functioning of your nervous system)
I’m sure by now you’ve heard of trans fat and PHO’s (partially hydrogenated oils) and you know it’s best to steer clear of these artery clogging fats that many fast food restaurants deceivingly used for years and many processed food companies utilize for longer shelf life–and of course to make their food taste better. (Ok, if you didn’t know all of that, now you do!) Despite the FDA’s attempt to make the public more aware of foods containing trans fat, unfortunately, consumers are still eating it!
Saturated Fat: Also known as “solid fat”, saturated fat is solid at room temperature. This is the type most are familiar with as they are mostly found in animal products such as meat, milk, and cheese. The new craze of using tropical oils and making foods without the dairy component strongly reflect the use of these types of oils such as coconut, palm oil and cocoa butter. Obviously those yummy, melt in your mouth baked goods are made with these oils, too! That’s how they have that super smooth [moist] texture that tastes like they’re fresh from the oven! Although you need some saturated fat, be careful with these as they can raise your cholesterol significantly. But again, these fats are still a much better option than their counterpart, the trans fat!
Unsaturated Fat: (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated) This fat is your friend. This is the one you definitely want to save calories for in your diet. These fats (monounsaturated) come from olive and canola oils, your favorite nuts and their complimentary butters (think almond butter and peanut butter!), and one of my faves, avocados! These fats are truly impressive in that despite falling under the category of “fat”, they actually help raise your good cholesterol (HDL) while lowering your bad cholesterol (LDL). Win-win here in that you get to eat those yummy nuts and butters but have the extra added health benefits, too!
Polyunsaturated fats come in the form of omega-3 fatty acids–I know that title sounds scary, but trust me, they’re good! Think fish and their corresponding oils (flaxseed, walnuts and tofu fit into this category as well.) Omega-6 fats are also under this polyunsaturated category and are found in corn and safflower oil, corn-fed meats, and farmed fish. Unfortunately, this is a cheaper way to feed livestock and a cheap fat to put into our body. Most of the polyunsaturated fat you put into your body should come from the omega-3 category.
SOoooooo, now what, you ask? Well, all I can do from this post is share what’s worked for me! Please understand, we eat a whole foods diet at our house. These suggestions are assuming that you eat minimal to no processed foods and are looking for ways to re-incorporate healthy, essential fats back into your whole food eating lifestyle.
Suggestion #1: Replace any oils you use to cook with EVOO (extra virgin olive oil) and coconut oil (baked goods). These oils digest smoothly, work well with flavorings and are easily accessible.
Suggestion #2: Start your day off right! For breakfast on most days, I make my oatmeal ahead of time the night before. I mix the following in my corning ware mug and simply heat it for a minute in the microwave in the morning.
1/2 c. old fashioned oats
1 TBSP ground flaxseed
1 TBSP chia seeds
2 TBSP hemp seeds
about 1/4 c. almond milk (enough to cover mixture) but depends on how “chunky” you want your oatmeal
** 2 tsp. organic maple syrup and 1/2 c. fresh berries
By allowing the ingredients to soak over night, it makes it all a bit thicker and appetizing in my opinion. I also pair my oatmeal with two “fried” egg whites that are cooked on the stovetop in Trader Joe’s amazing Coconut Oil cooking spray!
Suggestion # 3: Make your own salad dressing using the recommended oils. My choice is EVOO. Depending on how many servings of the dressing I want to make, for one serving I would mix about 1/8 c. EVOO, 1 TBSP lemon juice and 1 tsp of organic maple syrup.
Suggestion # 4: Add avocados to salads, wraps/sandwiches and pasta dishes. We LOVE Mexican food, so whether it’s tacos, (lightened up) Mexican Lasagna, or just taco salad, we always throw some avocados on top! Go easy on these fantastic fruits though because they are easy to eat, but high in [good] fat can cause you to go over your quota if you get carried away. Another way to utilize this amazing fruit would be through smoothies! Check out California Avocado for more great ideas!
Suggestion # 5: Remember that all fats are not created equal, but your body equally needs fat. Add (or subtract) this essential nutrient to your diet as needed. Try first, by replacing those refined/processed foods with REAL foods, allowing your slate to be “clean”. Regain your fat in the healthy fat way but seeking it through these suggestions above. Your skin, mind and body together will thank you for these fats and you’ll develop a whole new appreciation for this nutrient that’s been at fault for so many years for contributing to our obesity epidemic!