Healthy Fats Don't Make You Fat!
Many of us grew up thinking that all fats are bad for us - especially if you lived through the '90s or early '00s when fat-free was the way to be (Snackwell's cookies, anyone?). The truth is, the right fats can help us:
- Feel more satisfied after a meal
- Lower our risk of heart disease
- Improve the way we absorb nutrition and fat-soluble vitamins and minerals
- Get more antioxidants into our daily diet
The real challenge is understanding which fats are beneficial and which aren’t. So let’s make it easy:
• The worst fats are trans fats, like the ones in margarine and donuts.
• The best fats are heart-healthy omega-3s, like the ones in salmon and olive oil.
The healthy fats you want in your diet are minimally processed, polyunsaturated omega-3 fatty acids as well as monounsaturated fats. Another reason to love omega-3s? They reduce inflammation and help us metabolize fat.
According to Dr. Mark Hyman, author of Eat Fat, Get Thin, and who has dedicated his life to the science of healthy nutrition, healthy fats are not the enemy; “sugar, refined carbs, and foods that are highly processed are the real causes of weight gain, heart disease, and Type 2 diabetes.” Note, this doesn't mean to go mid-2000s on us and avoid all carbs, fruit, and yogurt. What you want to do is crowd out the less beneficial foods with the more beneficial ones.
Here is a list of healthy fats to eat in balance with healthy protein and healthy carbs in your daily diet to get the most bang for your nutritional buck.
• Avocado – Avocados are packed with healthy monounsaturated fats that contain oleic acid, which can help you feel fuller, longer. Avocados are also a healthy source of protein and fiber.
• Almonds & Almond Butter – Almonds are a good source of polyunsaturated fats, which can reduce fat storage and improve the way your body metabolizes insulin. Almond butter provides many of the same nutrients; just make sure that the nut butter you choose does not contain sugar or trans fats (also known as partially hydrogenated oil). That’s why it’s important to read the ingredients label.
• Walnuts and Walnut Oil – Walnuts are the top nut for brain health (they even look like the brain!). They are also the poster child for polyunsaturated fat – they contain 13 grams per one-ounce serving. They also have the most omega-3s of all the nuts. Try them as toppers to salads and oatmeal.
• Olive Oil – Whether you cook with it (on low heat) or use it in dressings and dips, olive oil contains cancer-fighting polyphenols and monounsaturated fats, including oleic acid, which helps protect the heart.
• Wild King Salmon – Wild salmon is packed with omega-3 fatty acids, which can help lower blood pressure, protect your heart against disease, and help decrease triglyceride levels. Eat wild salmon just once a week and you’ll get half the omega-3s recommended by the American Heart Association. Ask for it by name – wild salmon is a much better choice than farmed Atlantic salmon.
• Eggs – Another myth-buster: the cholesterol in eggs doesn’t cause high cholesterol in people! The egg white is a good source of protein, but the real star is the yolk and its monounsaturated fat. Recent studies show that the healthy fat in egg yolks actually helps reduce LDL cholesterol (the “bad” kind). And here’s some more good news. Eggs are the top source of choline, which is important for brain health and helps reduce your body’s tendency to store fat around your liver.
• Chia Seeds/Flax Seeds – Chia and flax seeds are a great source of an essential omega-3 fatty acid called ALA. Research shows that ALA is a heart-healthy omega-3, reducing the risk of heart disease by reducing inflammation and increasing optimal blood vessel health.
• Spirulina – This may not be your typical, everyday food – but maybe it should be! Spirulina is packed with omega-3s, and two specific kinds called EPA and DHA, which have been shown to control inflammation and belly fat. One of my favorite ways to include spirulina in my diet is in smoothies.
These healthy-fats foods offer so many benefits. Add one or two to your diet each week to protect your heart; lower your cholesterol; reduce inflammation; reduce belly fat and fat stored around the liver; and help you kick your hunger cravings and feel more satisfied after a meal.
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