For years we have been taught to fear fat. During the 1980s there was a low-fat craze when everyone started eating carbohydrates and sugar to replace the fats in their food. The problem was that the population became fatter and sicker – perhaps a sign that something was not right?
When it comes to fat we have a semantics problem. In other languages the word for the fat that we eat and the fat that we have around our bellies is a different word, In English, the same word is used to describe those two different types of fats.
Within the world of fat, there are many different kinds, some good and some bad.
Fat is not fat is not fat.
There are saturated, monounsaturated, polyunsaturated and trans fats and even within each, there are different types of fat. The bottom line is that not all fats are to be vilified and eating a good amount of healthy fats will not make you fat. In fact, the right ones are essential to health and weight loss.
These healthy fats can play various roles in your body, including keeping your heart and brain healthy, boosting your immunity, balancing your hormones, stabilising your metabolism, reversing diabetes and keeping inflammation to a minimum. In fact, over the past five years, scientific evidence has found no link between dietary fat, saturated fat or cholesterol and heart disease.
If you’ve been scared to eat fat because you think it’s unhealthy, it’s time to get your head around which fats are actually bad for you. It’s true that some fats are definitely best kept to an absolute minimum (trans fats are a big culprit here) but there are others that are really important for staying healthy.
Sugar and refined carbohydrates, not fat, are responsible for the epidemic of obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and the increased risk of dementia.
So now you know how important certain fats are for your body, let’s talk about how you can include more of them into your diet. Stock up on these foods to make sure you get plenty of healthy fats!
- Fatty Fish
Eating fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, herring and sardines two to three times per week helps you to get a good boost of omega 3 fatty acids. If you go for tuna, just be aware of the mercury content if you eat it often.
Tip: Buy tinned tuna as it has less mercury than fresh tuna.
How many of us have eaten dry, tasteless egg-white omelettes because we thought we were “supposed to”? Well, no more!
In a large analysis of sixteen major studies, eggs were found NOT to be linked to heart disease. Eggs are hugely nutritious and are great for keeping you feeling full thanks to their protein content. For years, we were told that eating eggs would raise “bad” LDL cholesterol levels but we know now that this isn’t true. It’s actually the opposite: people who eat plenty of eggs often have lower cholesterol. As an added bonus, it also helps to keep your heart healthy. Egg yolks are one of the few foods that naturally contain vitamin D. Eggs just might be nature’s most perfect and complete food. After all, it contains all the nutrients needed to create a new life!
Tip: Try stick to pasture-raised or omega-3 eggs, which are much higher in nutrients and antioxidants.
Avocados are a great way to get more monounsaturated fats into your diet. These are wonderful for heart health as they’re known to raise levels of “good” HDL cholesterol and at the same time, they also help to lower your “bad” LDL cholesterol. Healthy fats aren’t the only thing you’ll get from them though; they’re incredibly nutritious and supply a good range of vitamins and minerals.
Tip: Guacamole is a delicious way to get more avocado into your diet. Not a fan? Try drizzling avocado oil onto your salads or you can even cook with it.
4. Olive oil
It’s understandable why olive oil is such a staple of the Mediterranean diet which is mostly due to the healthy fats it contains. It is another rich source of the same kind of monounsaturated fats that you’ll find in avocados. Studies have shown lower rates of stomach and small intestinal cancer in people who eat olive oil on a regular basis.
Tip: Enjoy fresh extra virgin olive oil as it helps to improve your heart health, helps you to lose weight, reduces the risk of heart attacks and is good for your gut and your brain.
5. Coconut Oil
A lot of people don’t feel comfortable using coconut oil because of its saturated fat content but it’s actually extremely healthy and increases your levels of “good” HDL cholesterol. Plus, it’s packed full of antioxidants. You can use it in cooking or baking but the fairly strong taste can take some getting used to at first. Countries such as those in the South Pacific with the highest intake of coconut oil, eat up to 40% of their calories from saturated fat. Yet, surprisingly they have some of the lowest rates of heart disease in the world.
Tip: Look for coconut oil that is virgin, organic, cold-pressed, unrefined and not deodorised nor bleached.
6. Nuts and seeds
Nuts and seeds are high in protein, fibre, vitamins and minerals. They are packed with healthy fats so they help reduce your appetite and can help to lower “bad” LDL cholesterol making them a great choice for a healthy snack. Eat them in moderation though. Just like you wouldn’t binge on bags of broccoli you shouldn’t binge on bags of nuts (although they are very moorish). A handful or two a day is all it takes to reap their potent benefits.
Tip: Soak your nuts and seeds to reduce the “anti-nutrients” that can block nutrient absorption, cause digestive stress and inhibit enzymes.
7. Red Meat
Grass-fed meat is good not just for the planet, but for our bodies as well as they are a good source of omega 3 fats. An added bonus with meat from grass-fed animals is the much lower risk of consuming hormones, pesticides and antibiotics compared to their grain fed counterparts. The main reason that grass-fed meat is better for you is that you are not what you eat – you are what your food eats!
Tip: Even though it is more expensive to eat grass-fed meat it is worth it given its health and environmental benefits.
8. Dark Chocolate
Here is a source of healthy fat that you’re sure to love- I know I do! Dark chocolate ticks two big boxes from a health perspective: antioxidants and healthy fats. You don’t want just any type of dark chocolate though – go for at least 70% cacao. The higher the cacao percentage, the more benefits you’ll get.
As always, be sure to eat a balanced diet so that you can ensure you are eating the rainbow and that you are getting a diverse range of nutrients each day.
To learn more about fats and the other macronutrients (carbohydrates and proteins) and how to balance them to achieve optimal hormone balance, join my Move It Menopause on line program by clicking on my Programs Page above.
Eat Fat, Get Thin, Little, Brown and Company 2016, Mark Hyman, MD
Medical Disclaimer: All information contained in this blog is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent health problems. For all serious health issues, please contact a medical or nutrition practitioner. The information provided in this blog is based on the best knowledge of the author at the time of writing and we do not assume liability for the information within this blog, be it direct or indirect, consequential, special, exemplary or other damages.