Low-fat diets are becoming a thing of the past and I couldn’t be more excited! I used to be so scared to eat fats of any sort, fearing it would make me gain weight. Knowing all I know now, I know that is 100% FALSE.
Now, not all fats are the same and some we really want to limit consuming or avoid all together.
Our bodies use fat for so many different functions. It plays a huge role in hormone regulation which controls our weight, blood sugar, stress response, mood and our feeling of being satiated, skin health, hair growth and so many more. Ever notice when you eat just a carb-based meal, you feel heavy, bloated, and usually hungry an hour or so later? That’s because carbs (specifically refined) digest super quick and go right to our blood stream causing a blood super spike and then crash, which is where that hungry feeling comes from. This constant rise and fall of blood sugar doesn’t do our body any good, it can actually cause a bunch of problems. Just as I explained in my last post, “Carbs Are Friends”, when our blood sugar gets too high, our liver has to quickly process the sugar and our pancreas has to pump out insulin to counteract the high sugar levels. Whether our blood sugar is too low or too high, a hormone called “cortisol” also rises. Cortisol isn’t always problem-causing, but more often than not, it is. It’s called the “stress hormone”. Chronic high levels can be an issue though because our body is then constantly in fight or flight mode. With this happening, all our body is focused on is fighting this “danger” and all energy is taken away from other functions such as digestion. If we aren’t digesting, we aren’t absorbing. See how everything is interconnected and one thing always leads to the next?
What’s the difference between “good” and “bad” fats?
The main difference usually comes down to the quality of the plant/animal it’s coming from but also the processing its gone through. Ideally, we want minimal to no processing. When a fat goes through processing, specifically high heat, it can do the opposite, causing oxidization and free radical damage which damages our cells. If our cells are not healthy, they’re not absorbing the nutrients we’re giving it, which means our body isn’t getting what it needs. This can cause a whole bunch of different health issues. Fats can also become damaged being exposed to light or heat (even if they haven’t gone through high heat processing) and even oxygen. These can all cause the oils to become rancid and do the opposite of what we want it to in our body.
One of the most used oils is vegetable or Canola oil. This oil is highly processed and has gone rancid before it even gets in the bottle and to the store. This is due to the high heat it endures, possibly poor packaging and being exposed to light. The tricky part with these oils is that they all look the same (aside from different packaging). You can’t tell by just looking at an oil if it is rancid or not.
Fats don’t just come in oil form. There are tons of foods that have healthy fats such as;
· Nuts (almonds, cashews, walnuts etc.)
· Seeds (chia, hemp, pumpkin etc.)
· Wild salmon
· Pasture-raised eggs
· Grass-fed butter
So now what?
There are lots of oils and fats out there that are beneficial to our health, you just have to know what you’re looking for! I talked about this is my Food Swap post “Canola Oil vs. Alternatives” but here’s a little refresher;
All oils have a “smoke point”. That is the point in which an oil can be heated to and maintain its structure without oxidizing.
· Flax Oil
· Hemp Oil
· UDOS Blend (3-6-9 omegas)
Medium Heat (Up To 350F)
· Extra Virgin Olive Oil
· Coconut Oil
High Heat (350F+)
· Avocado Oil
· Grapeseed Oil
When purchasing oils, we want to make sure they’re in dark glass bottles stored away from light and heat. We also want to make sure they’re minimally-unrefined and organic if possible. Coconut oil for example should be bought organic, cold-pressed and unrefined. If you can find oils cold-pressed, those are your best options because that means when the oils were extracted, heat wasn’t used for that.
For foods with healthy fats, get organic when possible but don’t stress about it. Everything doesn’t have to be organic all the time. When choosing nuts and seeds, I like to buy them bulk in a place where I know their turnover is high, meaning they bring out fresh products often. A tip when purchasing flax seeds, buy them whole and grind them yourself. More often than not when you’re buying already ground flax, it has gone rancid and has been sitting there for some time. When buying fish, make sure it is wild caught and if you can find local, even better!
Don’t be scared to increase your healthy fat intake! If you’re trying to lose weight and you’re avoiding them, try slowing incorporating more into each meal. You may be surprised at how it makes you feel.