15 Mar What’s The Deal With Healthy Fat?
By Melissa O’Shea, MS, RD, Contributing Blogger
Remember the 90’s when eating fat-free foods was all the rage? The grocery store shelves were stocked with fat-free cookies, cakes, ice cream…you name it! Those were the days when many thought that eating fat made you fat. Now we know there is a lot more to the story when it comes to fat found in food. Still, I find many of my clients are shocked when I include avocado or almonds in their meal plan and wonder how they will lose weight eating those foods. Many folks still hold a stigma against eating fat, but avoiding fat can actually be counterproductive to achieving optimal health and wellness.
Why eat fat?
It’s not only essential for your body to function properly, but the right kinds of fat – monounsaturated and polyunsaturated – can help protect against heart disease and aid in weight loss. Healthy fats founds in oils, nuts, seeds and fatty fish have been shown to raise good cholesterol (HDL) levels and lower the bad (LDL). And fat is satiating, so adding a little oil to a salad, or snacking on walnuts instead of potato chips helps you feel fuller longer. That means you’re less likely to hit the fridge an hour after a meals Plus, fat helps our body absorb nutrients (like vitamins A, D, E, K), produce necessary hormones and provide energy – and we can all agree fat makes food taste better!
Are all fats created equal?
While healthy fats might be good for you, there are some fats you may want to cut back on. Trans fats should be avoided completely. These fats are found in processed junk and fast foods. Trans fats were created to make products last longer on shelves and to improve taste, but research has shown that these fats can be detrimental to our health. Saturated fats are less offensive than trans, but according to the 2015 dietary guidelines, they should limited to no more than 10% of calories in the diet. Saturated fat is found in butter, red meat, full fat dairy and fried foods.
So quit fearing fat and enjoy a little good fat with these 10 delicious ideas:
- Skip the bottled, creamy salad dressing and make your own with heart-healthy oils, like olive oil, walnut oil or avocado oil. Mix two parts oil with one part vinegar, add your favorite herbs, and enjoy!
- Stir ground flax seed into your cereal, smoothies, yogurt, pancake batter and muffin mix. Flax seeds are brimming with heart healthy omega-3 fats.
- Go nuts! Toss a few into salads, spread nut butter on whole grain bread, or snack on pistachios when hunger strikes. Just be mindful of portion size and stick to a 1-ounce serving.
- Add avocado to sandwiches and salads or toss some into your morning smoothie for an indulgently creamy texture.
- Chia seeds swell when placed in liquid, creating a pudding like texture. Make a chia seed pudding at home by whisking into your milk of choice with yogurt and a little maple syrup.
- Sprinkle sunflower seeds into salads for an added crunch. Toast them first to really enhance their flavor.
- Mix tahini into plain nonfat yogurt with cumin for a marinade for chicken or blend it with chickpeas in a food processor for a homemade hummus.
- Swap chicken for salmon – bake salmon in the oven with your favorite sauce and serve over soba noodles or brown rice.
- When you’re craving something salty, skip the chips and reach for olives. Just a few can curb your craving and fill you up.
- Eat the whole egg! The fat found in the yolk is the good kind so there’s no need to toss them aside. Keep hard-boiled eggs in the fridge for a quick grab-and-go breakfast or snack.