One of the things that interests me the most about nutrition is how people tend to categorize foods as either “good” or “bad.” Even within the vegan and plant-based food community, fat is often labeled as “bad” even though it is an essential part of our diet!
Healthy fats and oils steady our metabolism, keep hormone levels even, nourish our skin, hair, and nails, as well as provide lubrication to keep the body functioning fluidly. Healthy fats are especially important during winter to help insulate our bodies from the cold as well as provide energy.
As a health coach, I often get questions about what the “perfect diet” looks like or the best ways to lose weight. Many people think that they key to losing weight is to eat a low-fat diet. Although it is important to include the right kinds of fat in our diet, often times a low-fat diet can make us gain weight.
Have you ever bought something at the grocery store that was labeled “low-fat”? If you check out the nutrition label, you will usually see that it is loaded with sugar! Fat adds flavor to foods so when companies remove the fat from products (e.g. low-fat granola, fat-free cookies, etc), they add in extra sugar to make it taste better. Excess sugar is one of the keys to gaining weight so if you are hoping to trim your waistline, be sure to watch the sugar content in the foods you eat. Furthermore, eating good fats is actually one of the keys to healthy weight loss because healthy fats help us feel satiated after a meal, which actually prevents over-eating!
However, not all oils and fats are created equal. Heavily processed, hydrogenated, and “trans” fats used in packaged foods can be extremely damaging to the body so please try to remove these from your diet and avoid them as much as possible.
Some of my favorite fat sources include:
- Whole nuts and seeds, as well as their butters like almond butter and tahini.
- Whole foods such as avocados, olives, and coconuts.
- Oils like flaxseed, sesame, olive, walnut and pumpkin seed. These are best used raw for salad dressings.
- Coconut oil, especially for high-heat cooking, as it does not break down when used at high temperatures.
When selecting oils, good words to look for on the label are: organic, first-pressed, cold-pressed, extra-virgin and unrefined. Words to avoid are: expeller-pressed, refined and solvent extracted.
One of my favorite ways to include healthy sources of fat in my diet is by making granola bars at home using a variety of nuts and seeds, adding avocado to tacos, or roasting veggies in coconut oil.
What are your favorite ways to include healthy fats into your diet?
Image Source: Satoru Kukuchi/Flickr