We’ve been trained over the past few decades to automatically associate fat in our food with fat on our hips. In reality, the relationship between our food and our body isn’t that direct. The fat we eat can be used for a number of different things in our bodies including energy and even creating hormones that help reduce weight. Studies have shown that the ketogenic diet (high protein, high fat) is an effective method for weight loss.
Products that are advertised as ‘low fat’ can actually end up being far worse for you too because manufacturers need to substitute the flavours that are lost when they remove the fat from food. That’s when they introduce artificial flavours and sweeteners that are hard for our bodies to process and are actually more likely to turn to fat in our bodies. So fats aren’t your enemy, but you have to be smart with them, eat the right ones and the right amount. Here are some fast fat facts to help you use them properly in your diet.
Trans fats are the ones to stay away from. These are the bad artificial fats that you get when you turn vegetable oils into margarine and they’re linked to heart disease, stroke and diabetes. These guys raise your bad cholesterol and lower the good. Basically, you don’t want them in your body at all. Be careful when you’re in the grocery store though because products that are branded with that ‘zero trans fat’ label just mean there’s less than 0.5 grams per serving. Check the ingredients list to ensure that it doesn’t contain hydrogenated oil. If that’s not on the list, you should be safe. Check your chips especially. All you want in your potato chips is potatoes, oil and sea salt.
These are the fats that are solid at room temperature like butter, coconut oil, palm oil and the fats in meats. Those guys are the good ones but there are also bad saturated fats that you should avoid. Any foods that are processed or fried in saturated fat are a no-no. About a third of the fat in your diet should come from healthy saturated fats.
These are the fats that are liquid at room temperature like olive oil and sunflower oil. Olive oil is great for you but be careful where you’re sourcing it from. There’s a lot of fraudulent olive oil out there and you want to be getting the stuff that has polyphenol compounds–that bring down inflammation. Imported olive oil is usually your best bet and you want it to have grassy, spicy flavours to it rather than a smooth neutral taste. The good stuff helps decrease blood pressure and cholesterol.
So what’s good for us?
Out of your 2,000 calorie diet, you want 30 percent of that to be coming from healthy fats. One third of that should be saturated fat and the rest should come from unsaturated fat sources. Avocado is a healthy source of both those fats and also contains a good amount of zinc which is good for your skin, immune system and vision. Spread it on your toast or make avocado chocolate pudding to work it into your diet.
Olive oil can be added to salads and roasted or grilled meats and vegetables, but doesn’t hold up well under heat so it shouldn’t be cooked with at high temperatures. For cooking, coconut oil or palm oil is better. People have been singing the praises of coconut oil for the last few years because it contains lauric acid which helps you burn fat through your liver. It’s pretty good for you but don’t overdo it. You shouldn’t be having more than a tablespoon a day.
Cold water fish contain healthy fats and all meat is generally pretty good as long as it’s grass-fed and you know where it came from. Don’t forget those nuts and seeds for getting your good omega-3 fatty acids which can lower your risk for heart disease, cancer and arthritis.
Yes, this seems like a lot of information and working it all into your life may seem daunting. The bottom line is: use your instincts and read the ingredients labels on the products you buy. Natural fats are better than artificial ‘low fat’ products. It’s about time we got to embrace fat. Bring on the avocado pudding!