Fat has developed a bad rep due to decades of society touting low fat diets and the food industry presenting pretty packages of highly processed and manipulated reduced fat foods. Away with the commercialization of food and we get down to the facts.
Fat is a macronutrient and is fuel that our body needs and thrives on. This is an idea I only came to understand and accept as vital truth until about 3 years ago. In my adolescence and teenage years, fat in any form was something to avoid like the plague. I had no idea on how to distinguish the difference amongst fat sources, how to navigate the good and bad properties, nor how to properly and effectively incorporate it into my nutrition. My knowledge around fat melded into one big mess of an understanding that whatever it was, if I ate it, it would surely do no good for my internal health or physical appearance.
I know first hand the detrimental physical and psychological effects of eliminating fat from the diet. I distinctly recall a time in school where I was supremely stressed out and overwhelmed, my body fat so low that I felt like my brain literally was not functioning at the level that I was demanding it to. My hormones and moods were irregular, and I generally was fatigued and unhappy. My hair, skin, and nails were all lackluster and weak.
Consuming healthy amounts of fat daily is important for hormone regulation, neurological function, metabolism, digestive health, amongst a slew of other reasons. All of these processes are not only vital internally but dictate the status of one’s physical appearance as well. Presently, feeling satiated is another reason why I’ve started to make more of an effort to incorporate a fat source into at least 2 of my meals. When my macronutrients are balanced I feel more even keeled and less apt to eat between meals or crave sugars. Eating whole foods and acquiring the ratio of protein, fat, and carbohydrate that works for me helps to guarantee a proper dosage of vitamins and minerals. When the diet is balanced and nourishing, your body is less apt to ask for something more in a plea to get more essential nutrients even when you are full.
The temperature and cooking context in which fats and oils are used is also important. Here’s a quick guide in navigating fats and oils:
SATURATED: for HOT USES (i.e. baking, sauteing, frying)
fo non-animal: organic, unrefined forms are ideal
Animal fats from pasture-raised/grassfed, organic are ideal
-lamb, duck fat
-full fat dairy
-eggs, meat, seafood
UNSATURATED: for COLD USES (i.e. salad dressings, garnish for soups/finished meat and vegetable dishes)
-nut oils (walnut, macadamia, pecan)
-whole nuts and seeds (including butter forms)
It’s important to note that unsaturated fats intended for consumption in cold contexts are easily damaged and consumption of damaged fats and oils is what we want to avoid.
Saturated man-made fats which are never healthy, particularly trans fats:
-hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils, buttery spreads/blends/oils ie Earth Balance, Benecol, I Can’t Believe it’s Not Butter
Unsaturated oils which are highly refined and processed and therefore oxidize easily when heated. This is not ideal as oxidized fat in the body creates a reaction of inflammatory stress.
-vegetable, soybean, sunflower oil
-rice bran oil
-grapeseed oil (this one is a bit controversial as it does have benefits being a polyunsaturated fat, good source of Vitamin E and linoleic acid but in order to obtain grapeseed oil it is usually chemically extracted)
5 Quick, Efficient Ways to Add Fat into your Meals:
1. Throw a tablespoon of coconut oil into your daily smoothie, coconut oil is high in MCTs and lauric acid which is a wonderful energy source, propelling metabolism and fat burning.
-a teaspoon of coconut oil in your morning cup of joe; these fatty acids are shown to be beneficial for regulating insulin levels and can mitigate the impact of coffee by swirling in a spoonful
-a tablespoon stirred into oatmeal makes it wonderfully creamy and imparts a slight coconut flavor if using an unrefined source
2. Pair ½ to a ¼ of an avocado with your eggs, on top of a salad, mashed up with tuna, or blended with another part lemon juice or acid of your choice to make a quick, nutritious salad dressing
3. Keep your eggs whole! Even better if you can eat them with the yolk soft or imparting the liquid gold full of lutein and choline, an essential nutrient in the construction of your cell membranes and important for neurological function
4. Sunflower seedbutter, which has an excellent balance of Omega 3 & 6 fatty acids, is a delicious addition to pair with crunchy fruit like apples, veggies like cucumber slices, carrots or celery, or as a topping for oatmeal. Try to choose one without added sugar, Maranatha has a great option
5. Homemade trail mix using raw seeds and nuts: Pumpkin seeds, brazil nuts, almonds, sunflower seeds combined with raw coconut flakes and cacao nibs is super tasty and easy to take on the go
It should be noted that as with any nutrient, moderation is key. It’s important to keep portions in mind to align with your weight management or weight loss goals.