Today we are talking about fat. Many people have an immediate reaction to the word fat and even just seeing that word can evoke a negative feeling. As soon as I encourage my clients to increase their healthy fat content, as I undoubtedly do, I notice their reactions. They either look at me in horror, think I am nuts or think I am the coolest nutritionist ever because I am telling them to eat the fun stuff. Whatever their reaction may be, I always have to explain my reasoning.
Benefit of Healthy Fats:
Nutrient Absorption: Consuming healthy fats improves nutrient absorption of other foods that you eat. Many vitamins and minerals are fat soluble, such as vitamin D, E, A and Zinc. There are also fat soluble cartenoids in vegetables such as beta-carotene, lutein and lycopen, which offer vegetables their pigment and great ant-oxidant properties. Consuming fat on a regular basis, and especially with vegetables allows the body to assimilate these nutrients to nourish the body and protect it against disease.
Brain Food: Fat is the ultimate brain food, as 60 % of it’s dried weight is fat. We need fat to nourish our brain. Anything from attention to memory to preventative degeneration can benefit from an increase of fat. Furthermore, a fatty layer coats each nerve cell, which makes fat consumption necessary to eases stress and anxiety. Healthy fats have also been studied extensively as part of a holistic treatment to depression.
Skin Food: Our skin loves fat. All cells in our body are lined with a double fat membrane and fats, in particular omega 3 fatty acids, are responsible for the integrity of this membrane. Ensuring a healthy membrane improves hydration and moisture of our cells, resulting in healthier skin. Furthermore, omega 3 fatty acids also decrease inflammation ( discussed in next point) and it is inflammation that can be responsible for some acne, psoriasis and eczema.
Inflammation: Inflammation is a large topic, but simply speaking healthy fats help to decrease inflammatory responses in our body. Inflammation is tied to many, if not most health conditions such as auto-immune issues, arthritis, allergies, hypothyroidism, skin conditions, heart conditions, high cholesterol and digestive issues.
Blood sugar, weight-loss and feeling full: Including healthy fats in your diet helps to balance blood sugar and helps the body feel full, which in turn both help with weight-loss. Many people who are trying to loose weight will limit their fat consumption or opt for “ low-fat” or “non-fat” food items. This doesn’t help and in fact, often times makes loosing weight more difficult. We need to eat fat to slow the release of carbohydrates into our blood stream, which as a result balances blood sugar. Eating fat also increases feelings of satiation as the hormone leptin, responsible for feeling full, responds to fat consumption.
As you can see, fat consumption is very important for many aspects of our health. Now, not all fat is equal and you want to be sure to stay away from trans fats, hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated fats, rancid oils and anything deep fried. These are the type of fats that give fat a bad rep, and do not serve the body.
So, what fats should you eat? Below I have outlined my Top 5 Favourite Fatty Foods.
My Top 5 Favourite Fatty Foods:
Avocado: Enjoy on salad, as guacamole or even just eat half of an avocado as a snack.
Walnuts: A small handful of these nuts is a great snack or salad topper.
Flax Oil: Flax oil must be kept and consumed cold, so no heating here! This is best as salad dressing, in a smoothie, on top of porridge or toast that has been cooled a bit. 1 tbsp of this oil is a great serving.
Olives: Olives are so satisfying and delicious, definitely one of my favourite fat sources. Just make sure to eat in moderation as they are a bit high in salt. About 5 olives would be a great serving of healthy fats as part of an appetizer (antipasto!), in tapenade or just on their own.
Sardines: Sardines are a super fatty fish and also a fish low in mercury. They are easy to find canned, but try to make sure you get from a sustainable source (listed on label). This is great to include with a salad, with crackers or on toast. Also, sardines are great to include as a main course with a grain and a steamed vegetable.
I hope this post inspired you to include healthy fats into your daily life and reap the benefits of this amazing food group!