Breaking down the fat myths, bias and beliefs of all things fat-related!
Ok, before we get too carried away here, let's clarify...not all fat is created equal. Fat comes from many sources, but the source I'm talking about is the only one you should be adding to your diet daily. That is the pure, natural, 1-ingredient fats.
We're talking about avocado, nuts, seeds, extra virgin olive oil, coconut, eggs, and even butter! Yes, butter. We will go through this list in more detail, but right now, let's talk about fats, what their purpose is and why we shouldn't be afraid of them.
Fats - What is their nutritional benefit?
Fat is essential to your health. Full stop. Fat helps the absorption of vitamins and minerals in your body, it gives you energy, improves blood cholesterol levels, and it feeds your brain--which, by the way, is made up of 60% fat! When your brain is not getting fat, this affects your overall performance, resulting in brain fog, slower information processing and brain function. And who wants a slow-processing brain? We don't even use 100% of our brain as it is, so wouldn't you want the percentage that is in use to work at full capacity? I sure do.
There are four types of fat in your diet:
1. Monounsaturated fat
2. Polyunsaturated fat
3. Saturated fat
4. Trans fat
1. Monounsaturated fat help to reduce bad cholesterol levels and lower your risk of heart disease. It also helps to feed and maintain your body's cells. Monounsaturated fats are a double bond fat, meaning that they are molecules with an unsaturated carbon bond in them. Olive oil, coconut oil, and any other oil that is liquid at room temperature but solid when chilled are examples of monounsaturated fat.
1. Polyunsaturated fat are also double bond fats, and provide nutrients to help develop and maintain your body's cells. They also provide essential fatty acids that your body needs, such as omega-6 and omega-3s, which is essential for brain function. Polyunsaturated fats also aid with vitamin E, another needed antioxidant in the diet.
2. Saturated fat gets a bad rap in the health community, but it is also an essential fat for your diet. Saturated fats have no double bond, meaning they are always solid at room temperature. Saturated fat occurs naturally in food, mostly from animal sources like meat and dairy. It's another great way to fuel your brain, but you want to be careful of how much you consume and where it's coming from.
4. Trans Fat is the least healthy and should be avoided as much as possible. The problem with trans fats is that it is not always naturally-occurring. Naturally-occurring trans fats are produced by animals, while artificial trans fat are created by industrial means. Processed foods, deep-fried foods, anything with vegetable oil, partially hydrogenated oil and the likes are fats you need to stay away from. In November 2013, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) determined that partially hydrogenated oils are no longer Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) in human food. Unlike the other fats, trans fats are horrible for your brain. It affects your memory and increases inflammation in the brain, which inhibits the body’s production of Omega 3 fatty acid.
Now that we know a bit about fat, let's talk about the GOOD fats and why IT'S OK! to eat them. The idea is to eat fat from as natural a source as possible. You don't want to get your fat from a creamy bleu cheese pasta dish, as delicious as that sounds. Why? Because it's loaded with saturated and trans fat, the fats you want to limit or avoid altogether.
Sources of GOOD monounsaturated fats:
- olive oil
- coconut oil
- nut butters
- raw nuts and seeds
Sources of GOOD polyunsaturated fats are:
- fish like herring, salmon, mackerel, sardines
- flax seeds and oil
- tahini (sesame seed butter)
- chia seeds
Sources of GOOD saturated fats are:
- organic, grass-fed meat
- organic, grass-fed butter
- coconut everything- oil, butter, fruit
- eggs (the WHOLE thing. It's OK to eat the whole egg!)
- dark chocolate, 80% or more (yay!)
Now, what's the best way to add these good fats to your diet? Below are some great ideas and combinations you can add to your daily diet. Keep in mind that fats work great when eaten with vitamins and minerals for maximum absorption. So adding fat to your salad is a PERFECT way to get that in! I personally eat 1 avocado a day. I've been doing this for years, since being raw vegan. Side note: Eating an avocado a day does not make you fat. It's what you're eating ALONG with avocados that's making you fat. IT'S OK to eat avocados!
- Add coconut/flax/chia seeds to your fruit smoothie
- Add butter/coconut oil to your coffee
- Add avocado to your eggs
- Add olive oil to your eggs
- Add salmon to your eggs
- Add nuts and seeds to your salad
- Use olive oil as your salad dressing
- Use avocado as a salad dressing base
- Add 1 whole avocado to your salad
- Add fish or grass-fed meat to your salad
- Cook with coconut oil
- Steam veggies and add grass-fed butter (delicious!)
- Add grass-fed butter to cauliflower rice, quinoa or other grains
- Add butter or olive oil to potatoes after roasting or boiling
- nut butters and fruit
- hummus and veggies (hummus contains tahini)
- trail mix with coconut, goji berries/mulberries and raw nuts (leave out other dried fruit, as it's mostly sugar)
- homemade coconut candy (see my recipe for this amazing sugar-free snack!)
So now that we have basic idea of fat, how it works in your body and where to get GOOD sources of fat from, I hereby give you permission to go forth and eat fat, because...it's OK!!