Lately, there has been a lot of news coming out regarding fat. Some of it is true (i.e based on science) and some of it has no scientific basis.
It is true that fat is no longer the villain, nor should it be. Fat is an essential part of the diet and needs to be eaten every single day.
It helps you to absorb nutrients from the foods you eat (like vitamins A, D, K and E), it helps keep your cells healthy, it helps keep skin and hair healthy, makes hormones and provides (and stores) energy as well as being an important part of numerous reactions in your body.
You need fat, I need fat, we all need it. It helps to fill us up, it helps us to stay full longer. It provides a texture and mouth-feel that are satisfying and nothing else can quite replicate.
For many years fat was vilified as the reason Americans were getting heavier, why overweight and obesity were on the rise, but here is the thing: even after we switched to low fat and no fat diets the trend for overweight and obesity kept rising.
It was not the fat that was making us heavier as a nation it was an excess of calories. And reducing the fat in our diets didn’t help, it made the problem worse.
When fat is taken out of something, like salad dressing, the flavor of that salad dressing is compromised, so in order to increase the flavor, they replace the fat with sugar (or other highly refined carbohydrates).
The refined carbohydrates that take the place of fat breakdown into sugars in the body which spike blood sugar in the body and trick the brain into making you feel hungry, so you eat more. The sugar also raises triglycerides which are precursors of heart disease and stroke.
Turns out, sugar is much worse than fat!
What about saturated fat? Is it ok to eat now?
The research on this is kinda tricky, studies show that it is not harming us, but those studies compare it to highly refined processed foods like white flour, not to other fats.
Saturated fat is preferable over highly processed carbohydrates but when compared to unsaturated fats, saturated fats are revealed for what they are- bad fats.
Eating unsaturated fats in place of saturated fats can help lower the risk of heart disease.
Of course, one thing that everyone still agrees on is trans fats are the worst kinds of fats! They raise LDL (bad) cholesterol, lower HDL (good) cholesterol and increase the risk of heart disease.
To make sure you are avoiding trans fats look at the label and make sure that it say 0g Trans Fat and then look at the ingredient list- if you see hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated anything, it means there is some trans fat.
Manufacturers can get away with saying there are 0g of trans fat in a product if there is less than 0.5g per serving. That can add up throughout the day, a small amount at breakfast, a bit at lunch, a double serving of crackers for a snack and a bit at dinner and for dessert can mean around 5g per day- experts recommend less than 2g, though the best number is a big fat zero!
Here are a few tips to reduce the amount of saturated fat and sugar and stay healthy!
Use Fats that are Liquid at Room Temperature for Cooking
As a general rule, fats that are liquid at room temperature are generally the heart healthy, unsaturated kind of fats whereas the unhealthy, saturated fats like butter, shortening and stick margarine are solid at room temperature. This is not always the case, look at flax seeds and avocado, which are also heart healthy but quite solid at room temperature (you are less likely to toss those in a pan to sauté mushrooms).
Avocado is a great source of heart healthy fats. It makes a great replacement for butter in baking and as a spread. In baking avocado mimics many of the properties of butter and can be substituted 1:1. It also provides a creamy, buttery taste and texture as a spread for toast, bagels o in place of mayo on sandwiches.
Get Your Omega-3’s
Omega-3’s are currently the darling of the nutrition world, and for good reason. Omega-3’s help reduce inflammation and help keep the heart healthy. One of my favorite ways is through flax seeds. They provide fiber and Alpha Linolenic Acid (ALA), a precursor for omega-3 fatty acids. They also provide an awesome nutty flavor to smoothies, cereal, quick breads and can even be used as an egg/butter replacement in baking. Salmon is another great source of Omega-3 fatty acids, but so are other fatty fish like sardines, mackerel, tuna and anchovies. Sardines and anchovies are also some of the most sustainable fish in the ocean which make them an even better choice. Walnuts, canola oil and chia seeds are also good sources of omega-3’s!
Use Fruit in Place of Sugar
When adding sugar, try to use the most natural form possible- fruit. Fruit is not only naturally sweet, but it is also loaded with antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and fiber- more bang for your buck! Sugar, even brown sugar or sugar in the raw, is just sugar. No vitamins, minerals or fiber. Just calories. Try adding or pureeing fresh or dried fruits and using them in place of sugar in pancakes, oatmeal, smoothies, iced tea and more!