Fat gets a bad rap and that’s because it’s very misunderstood. So what is it? It’s a macronutrient and a source of energy. There are 4 major types of fats: Monounsaturated, polyunsaturated (including omega-3s), trans, and saturated.
Unsaturated fats are known as the “Good” fats. They can improve blood cholesterol levels and lower your risk of heart disease. Unsaturated fats can also benefit insulin levels and help control blood sugar (especially helpful if you have Type 2 Diabetes). The two types of fats that fall in this category are Monounsaturated (avocados, olives, almonds, peanuts, cashews) and Polyunsaturated (walnuts, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, flaxseed, soy). Some Unsaturated oils are Traditional Cold Pressed (extra virgin olive oil, peanut oil, sesame oil) which use no chemicals or heat in the process which means they are very healthy for you. However, there is always a flip side to the coin. Processed oils (soybean oil, sunflower oil, corn oil, canola oil, safflower oil) are made from GMOs and use high heat and toxic solvents. Because they are so processed, their high Omega 6 content unbalances the healthy ratio of O6 to O3 which is crucial to good health. Stay away from these oils and opt for traditional cold pressed oils.
Omega 3 Fatty Acids are a type of polyunsaturated fat and play a vital role in cognitive function and emotional health. They prevent and reduce depression, ADHD, and bipolar disorder. Omega 3s also protect against memory loss and demential, reduce risk of heart disease, stroke, cancer, ease arthritis, joint pain, and inflammation, and have been shown to support healthy pregnancy. Good sources of Omega 3s are algae, seaweed, walnuts, flaxseed, brussel sprouts, kale, spinach, parsley, chia seeds.
Keep in mind, the best sources of healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are nuts, seeds, and cold-pressed vegetable oils. Here are some good tips to know:
• Make friends with olive oil. Use cold-pressed extra-virgin olive oil to dress salads, cooked vegetables, or pasta dishes. Also use olive oil for stovetop cooking, rather than stick margarine or canola oil.
• Dress your own salad. Commercial salad dressings are often high in calories, saturated fat, or made with damaged trans fat oils. Create your own healthy dressings with extra virgin olive oil, flaxseed oil, or sesame oil.
• Eat more avocados. Try them in sandwiches or salads or make guacamole. Along with being loaded with heart and brain-healthy fats, they make for a filling and satisfying meal.
• Reach for the nuts. You can also add nuts to vegetable dishes or use them instead of breadcrumbs on chicken or fish.
• Snack on olives. Olives are high in healthy monounsaturated fats. But unlike most other high-fat foods, they make for a low-calorie snack when eaten on their own. Try them plain or make a tapenade for dipping. (watch sodium intake)
•Commercially-baked goods (cookies, crackers, cakes, muffins, pie crusts, pizza dough, breads like hamburger buns)
•Packaged snack foods (crackers, microwave popcorn, chips, candy)
•Solid fats (stick margarine, vegetable shortening)
•Fried foods (French fries, fried chicken, chicken nuggets, breaded fish, hard taco shells)
•Pre-mixed products (cake mix, pancake, chocolate milk)
•Anything with “partially hydrogenated” oil listed in the ingredients
Look for hidden trans fat in your food
The USDA recommends limiting trans fat to no more than 2 grams per day; many other authorities recommend eliminating it altogether. In the U.S., if a food has less than 0.5 grams of trans fat in a serving, food companies can label a product as having 0 grams trans fat. You may think that what you’re eating is safe but all those small amounts can quickly add up to dangerous levels of trans fat, especially if you consume more than the recommended serving.
•Check the food’s ingredients. If it lists “partially hydrogenated” oil then the food contains some trans fat.
•Avoid fast food. Most states have no labeling regulations for fast food, and it can even be advertised as cholesterol-free when cooked in vegetable oil.
•When eating out, ask your server what type of oil your food will be cooked in. If it’s partially hydrogenated oil, run the other way or ask if your food can be prepared using olive oil.