Last week, I shared how there are good carbs and bad carbs, and the importance of consuming certain types of carbs to help achieve your health and fitness goals. If you find yourself just as confused about fats – whether to consume some or none at all, full-fat vs low-fat vs non-fat – you’re not alone. Fats are so often regarded as “bad,” but that perception is misleading and not the whole truth.
Our bodies actually require a certain amount of fat intake in order to properly function. Consumption of the proper amount of proper fats helps our bodies do many things that are vital, including:
- provide energy (in fact, fat is the most energy dense food source)
- help balance and manufacture hormones
- form the outer membranes of cells
- help form the brain and nervous system
- transport fat soluble vitamins – A, D, E and K
- provide two essential fatty acids that the body can’t produce – Omega-6 and Omega-3 (both in the form of linoleic acid)
As mentioned above, fat is the densest of all of the food groups and because of this, you don’t need to consume a lot of it in order to receive a lot of calories. Because fat can provide these calories and play an important and active role in the needs of our bodies, fats shouldn’t be considered as something “bad” to be avoided, but something to be limited, with a focus on both quality and quantity.
What are Quality Fats?
Quality fats will come from whole foods, meaning the fat is coming from a food source that you can easily identify and that has been minimally processed. For example, choosing to make your own guacamole from fresh avocados instead of purchasing pre-packaged, processed guacamole would be considered a quality fat choice. You can select freshly ground peanut butter instead of the sugar-loaded, preservative-filled peanut butters that line the grocery store shelves. You can also make your own salad dressing using pure olive oil as a smart fat choice. Keep foods as close to their whole source as possible; just be mindful of the amounts you consume. Other smart (quality) fats include:
Animal fats (eggs, dairy, meat, fish, butter, cheese, etc.)
Since our palates naturally enjoy fats (because it is full of flavour), the more marbled a piece of meat is, the more flavourful it is. Enjoy these cuts of pork or beef, just do so less often. You can also use leaner proteins like chicken, turkey or even wild game. Choose bacon that doesn’t contain sugar, added salts and sulphites, and preservatives.
Opt for natural, unprocessed milk, which will still contain the fats that include required vitamins that are only soluble in fats. Low-fat products are fortified, which means the vitamins are added back into the product by artificial means. Low-fat also means less flavour, and sugar is often added as a substitute, diminishing the health benefits. Cheese, sour cream and butter are extremely easy items to overeat, so be careful of the quantity you consume.
Eggs are an extremely healthy food option, and much of the information concerning eggs and cholesterol is misleading and/or misinformed. Unless you have a specific condition for which you are being advised by a doctor, don’t worry too much about cholesterol in eggs, and enjoy all the health benefits this protein-rich whole food has to offer.
Oils — Flax Seed, Olive, Fish, Palm, Coconut and other nut/seed oils
The benefits of pure oils are often overlooked when cooking. Choose oils that are derived from whole foods and have gone through minimal (if any) processing. Look for the terms “cold pressed’ or “virgin.” Store your oils in the fridge and away from light as much as possible.
For some information on the smoke-points of oils and the finer points of cooking with them, check out Cooking Fats 101.
Nuts and nut butters
Choose raw nuts and seeds instead of roasted or otherwise processed versions – they’re easy to find at bulk food and health food stores, as well as some grocery stores. The roasting and salting found on many nuts is done simply to prolong their shelf life. If you’re looking for butters, be sure to select ones that are freshly ground instead of refined butters that contain additives that prevent the natural process from occurring and also add unnecessary sugars.
Peel ‘em. Seed ‘em. Slice ‘em or mash ‘em. Eat ‘em. Yum.
How Much is Enough?
The quantity of fats you want to consume at each meal is approximately a thumb-sized portion. Think of a thumb’s worth of peanut butter, which is equivalent to two thumbs’ worth of almonds.
There are some simple ways to make sure you’re getting healthy fats into your daily diet:
- If you’re trying to eat healthier and are taking salads for lunch but don’t feel full after eating them, this is a great opportunity to use fats to your advantage. Add a smart fat option to your salad. The higher calorie properties will make you fill full and you won’t feel deprived. Consider tossing a variety of nuts and seeds on your salad – but keep the proper quantity in mind.
- Fresh guacamole makes a healthy dip for snack time.
- Remember those nuts you tossed onto your salad? You can also toss some nuts into stir fries to add taste, texture, crunch – and a healthy portion of fat.
- Sliced or mashed avocados can make a meal richer and more filling. Olives on the side or on top make a nice complement.
- Go ahead – put some butter on top of those veggies! Just don’t smother them – use a proper amount.
- Add almond butter to yogurt to create a “yogurt and protein pudding” to make a great snack that will keep you full for hours.
Fats don’t need to be avoided; you simply need to be conscious of selecting the best quality fats and be careful about how much of those quality fats are consumed. It’s easy to overeat fats, because our palates actually have a natural preference towards fatty foods – that’s why fried foods taste so good! This makes it even more important to stay mindful that the fats you consume are of high quality and the proper quantity.
If you have questions, then let’s connect. Book yourself a pressure-free, 20 minute Fitness Breakthrough session. I will help figure out what you need in order to become stronger and healthier version of yourself.
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