Text by Jennie Epland, Photo by Jae Song
We have all heard the old adage, “you are what you eat”, right? I think that in a general way that is a true statement. If you eat fast food or packaged food, your body will start to feel it and show it. Your metabolism and immune system don’t function as well as it should. On the other hand, eating lots of veggies, fruits, clean proteins and foods that are close to their original form from the earth when you ingest them, you will have more energy and feel better overall.
What about fats? If you eat a lot of fats, will they show up as bodyfat? I make sure every meal has a good amount of fat in it, but I am not overweight nor do I have high cholesterol. There have been many myths over the last century that were confusing to our bellies. There has been a growing, and now hopefully waning, fear of fat. I’ve read so many articles anywhere from the American Heart Association to Cosmo. I’d like to simplify and provide a little clarity by learning the good, the bad, and the skinny on fat.
A brief overview of the kinds of fats out there:
Trans-Fat thought I’d start with this one because it’s the really ugly kind. Itis man-made and put through a process called hydrogenation in order to have a longer shelf life at a lower cost. It lowers good cholesterol and raises the bad kind of cholesterol.
Saturated Fat This is a more dense kind of fat. The kind that gets solid at a cold or room temperature.
Unsaturated Fat This comes from plant sources and fish. It remains liquid at room temperature. There is poly-unsaturated and mono-unsaturated which just means there is a double or single bond in their makeup.
There is no debate that trans-fats are bad for you, but many go back and forth on whether saturated fat is good or evil and how much should actually be in our diets. Unsaturated has always been the favorite among the lot. This is where you’ll see the “omegas” talked about. Omega-3 sources are mainly fish like salmon, mackerel, sardines etc and some seeds and nuts like flax seed and walnuts. Omega-6 sources are mainly all the other kinds of nuts and seeds out there. Our body needs these fatty acids but it is unable produce them on its own, so they are considered essential. We should eat a balanced ratio of the two, or more omega-3 than omega-6. A diet that is dominant in omega-3 will promote anti-inflammatory responses in our bodies and may decrease the chance of certain diseases.
Saturated fat has made a big come back with the paleo movement that has become very popular. This includes animal products such as meat and dairy, but also includes coconut oil (my fave) and palm oil. While Paleo eaters want to get back to a hunter-gatherer way of eating, some doctors say that this will lead to high cholesterol and heart disease. Early man ate in way that the ratio of omega-3s to omega-6s was 1:1. There was no heart disease, cancer, or diabetes, according to anthropologists. I am not saying that everyone should eat according to this diet, but I will say that the rise in production of crappy vegetable oils and hormone ridden farmed animals in our country in the last century, has screwed with our health.
Alright, I’ll try not to preach, so on to specific fats that we can incorporate daily…
Avocados This fruit is high in vitamin E, folate and protein. Everyone loves an avocado toast but using avocado oil has become a trend as well. It has a high smoke point, meaning it won’t turn toxic when using it to cook at high temperatures. I love having half an avocado on amaranth bread with a drizzle of olive oil, squeeze of lemon and cayenne or chili flakes. The combination packs a punch, keeps you full, and has numerous health benefits.
Coconut oil This is my superhero food. From oil pulling in the morning, to cooking, to using on my skin and hair, it has numerous benefits. Increases good cholesterol and is easy for us to digest, meaning it is not stored as body fat and can be used for energy. I love doing a veggie stir fry using coconut oil, which adds its own nutty rich flavor. Olive oil is amazing too, but it has a low smoke point so should not be used to cook with.
Walnuts, Chia and Flax Besides being a good source of omega fatty acids, they also have a high source of fiber, protein and B vitamins. I throw all three in a smoothie with hemp milk, blueberries, goji berries, and kale, and its delicious!
Salmon One of the best food sources out there for omega-3 fatty acid. It’s the highest in protein on this list and also has a days worth of vitamin D in just one serving. Wild Salmon is better than farmed generally but there are organic farm raised salmon that are not terrible. Baked Salmon wrapped in kale with garlic, lemon and black pepper is my favorite recipe.
We need to eat fats in order to function at our full capacity. They give us energy and help our brain function correctly. It’s good for our skin and hair, and helps us transport vitamins and nutrients into our system. Hopefully this cleared up some ideas that have been swirling around about fat. I know I’ve been inspired to use these in my kitchen more.