In this second installment of the Fuel Your Body! series we’ll talk a bit about the importance healthy fats, and highlight some of my favorites.
Of the three macronutrient groups (proteins, carbohydrates, and fats), I have to say that fats are my favorite to talk with people about. Not only do I enjoy the many looks of disbelief when I tell people that the absolutely need to incorporate healthy fats into every meal, but I’m also enjoy clearing up the many misconceptions people have about healthy fats. Here are some of my favorites.
Fats – Good fats (especially omega-3 fatty acids) are important for cell membrane health, muscle building, fat burning, skin health, mood and anxiety control, maintaining heart health, fighting hypertension, reducing joint pain, and are shown to be an effective immune booster (did I miss anything?). While they are higher in calories than carbs or proteins, they are incredibly important, and absolutely necessary for proper health. Eat them in moderation at every meal.
Avocado – Don’t be afraid of avocados! They are packed full of monounsaturated fats and LDL (good) cholesterol, and contain nearly 20 different vitamins. They are also made up of three quarters insoluble fiber, so the help a lot with proper digestion. A couple of avocado slices are a great addition to any meal if you realize you’ve forgotten to include a serving of healthy fats.
Nuts – Nuts are great for snacking. Make sure to get them raw at the grocery store as they are often roasted, which robs them of important phytonutrients. Go for the almonds or walnuts. Both are nutritional powerhouses. Almond milk makes for a great beverage too. Skip the flavored varieties and just add a little cinnamon (a superfood) for sweetness. Kids love it.
Olive Oil – Olive oil is king of the healthy oils. Unlike most oils, which are derived from nuts or seeds, olive oil comes from the fruit of the plant and thus contains more nutrients. It also has a perfect ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids (8 to 1). Olive oil and vinegar with a little sea salt and pepper is a tasty guilt-free alternative to processed salad dressing. Be sure to use the extra-virgin variety when eating olive oil raw (such as in a salad) for even more nutritional benefit.
Coconut Oil – Coconut oil used to be shunned by health enthusiasts because it is very high in saturated fat. But as the science of nutrition evolves, so too has our understanding of saturated fats. Coconut oil is made of mostly medium chain fatty acids, meaning that it is used quickly in the body, instead of being stored in it as fat. Add to this its antimicrobial, antibacterial, anti-fungal, and antioxidant disease fighting properties, and you have a serious nutritional powerhouse. To get the most nutritional benefit, eat it raw from a spoon! Or for a more tasty option, fry chicken in it for a wonderful flavor. Also great for baking.
Safflower Oil – If you’re frying or baking, and don’t want the distinct flavor of olive oil, try safflower oil instead. It is rich in omega six fatty acids, reduces cholesterol, and reduces blood sugar levels. In addition to being great for frying and baking, it is a healthy alternative to regular vegetable oil.
Cold Water Fish – Cold water fish are nature’s best source of omega-3 fatty acids. Salmon and Tuna are my favorite cold water fish, but mackerel, sardines, and anchovies are also good if to your taste. Make sure to buy wild salmon when it is in season. It is much more nutritious than farm raised, and has a much redder appearance. Avoid the soon to be FDA approved “Aqua-Advantage” brand salmon. It is actually a genetically modified salmon / eel hybrid appropriately nicknamed “Frankenfish” by critics. Yikes!
Grass Fed Beef And Dairy – Because the cows it comes from eat their natural diet (as opposed to the grains conventional beef eat), grass fed beef and dairy have a perfect omega-3 to omega-6 ratio, in addition to containing up to five times the amount of the powerful cancer fighting fat CLA (conjugated linoleic acid) than their grain fed counterparts.
Hemp Seed – Hemp seeds are a great source of protein and good fats. They are high in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, and have a complete essential amino acid profile (VERY important for vegetarians). People trying to limit caloric intake should note that they improve satiety. In other words, they make you feel full. Additionally, they are believed to control cholesterol, reduce inflammation, and improve circulation.
Next time we’ll cover the third macronutrient group, carbohydrates.