Not too long ago we were warned of the perils of eating a high fat diet and the low fat craze was born. But we’ve come a long way since then and now it would seem that fat is our friend, dietary fat that is.
So how do we break through the clutter of information out there and learn what constitutes healthy, friendly fat? The kind of fat our bodies actually like and respond to in a favorable way. First off, let’s start at the source. And by source, I literally mean where the fat comes from.
The most common sources of fat come from either animal or plant sources. Animal fat being the more obvious fat, such as fat from meat and butter, but also things like cheese and eggs are animal-based fat sources. While plant-based fats are those such as olive oil, nuts, seeds and vegetables such as avocado. Much like our discussion of carbs last week, not all fats are created equal. And while dietary fat has become more friend, than foe, there are some good rules of thumb to follow when it comes to incorporating a healthy amount of dietary fat into your meals.
- Just because you’re fat does not mean you should avoid fat.
Ok, I know this one sounds a little blunt, but let’s be honest, when we carry a little extra weight we start to think fat is the problem. But in reality, if we take a closer look at our diet, fat is probably the least of our worries. Actually, fat, when consumed intelligently, can be a great tool for weight loss, but we’ll get to that in a bit. Most likely low nutrient, high sugar carbs are the biggest culprit for weight gain and usually indicates a lack of an appropriately balanced diet. The introduction of more healthy fats and less empty carbs will actually do a lot more for your waist than any amount of exercise. You can’t out exercise a bad diet. Start incorporating some healthy fats instead of loading up on empty carbs and see what difference it can make for you.
2. Fats actually help with nutrient absorption.
This is particularly true with green leafy vegetables. Don’t be afraid to put a little olive oil or butter on your broccoli next time you eat it. That little bit of oil or butter actually helps you better absorb the available nutrients in the broccoli and, on top of that, makes your meal that much more enjoyable! Rule of thumb, try to pair your fats with protein and vegetables and reduce them when eating carbs. The combination of fats and carbs can actually cause your body to store excess fat.
3. The animal fats you think are bad, probably are.
Sorry to be a buzzkill here, but the fats you think are delicious, but know deep down can’t be good for you, probably aren’t 😦 you know the ones I am talking about. Your bacon, foie gras, sausage, etc. the worst kinds of fats tend to be the ones that are overly processed and/or come from unnatural sources (think trans fats, a term I’m sure you’ve heard, but don’t really understand). To put it simply, trans fats are not fats in their natural state. The fat has been transformed in a lab to be a different source, a foreign source, that your body simply does not know how to handle. And what should you do when your body can’t handle something? Avoid it like the plague! Well maybe nothing that drastic, but hopefully you get my gist. Some things we intuitively know. Don’t be afraid to follow your intuition when it comes to dietary fat.
4. You CAN eat too much healthy fat.
Yes, sorry to be the bearer of bad news again, but there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. When we learn that fat can be healthy and that we should be consuming more of it, we often let that become an excuse to overindulge in these so-called healthy fats. You know what I’m talking about here. The belief that you can eat as many almonds as you want because they are healthy or you can eat as much peanut butter as you want because peanuts are healthy. And while these are partially true statements, the main thing to remember is this, calories are calories. And fat tends to be calorie dense, so a little bit goes a long way.
5. Get a variety of fat types in your diet.
If you’re the kind of person that gets religious about eating a certain kind of nut or cheese or using a certain kind of oil, learn not to worship just one thing. Your body likes variety, especially when it comes to fat. Get it from a variety of sources, as they all have different health benefits to offer. Eat coconut, it’s a healthy and delicious saturated fat that is great for your body and skin and a great substitute for butter or olive oil. Don’t be afraid to cook with olive oil and butter, and rotate their use. Some recipes will taste better than ever using a different cooking oil. Experiment. Eat cheese, but realize it has a lot of calories. Maybe save the indulgence for special occasions or learn to monitor your intake so you don’t go overboard. Moderation is key.
As you can see, fat is an essential part of a healthy diet and can actually have immense benefits when consumed appropriately. Knowing the tools to make smart choices is how you seamlessly incorporate fat into your diet. This week, take an inventory of your fat intake in general. Are you eating too little? Too much? Are you getting it all from one source or many? Are you pairing it appropriately with the other things in your diet? Start to see where you can make some adjustments and allow healthy fats to be a part of your daily life.