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21 Days of Self-Care: Day 15 - Eat Healthy Fats

People used to think dietary fat made you fat, slow and prone to heart attacks. Not true if you focus on the right kind of fat. Healthy fat can help your stronger, fitter and healthier. They help you recover faster, and nourish fatty tissues like your brain, eyes and cell membranes. Your hormones stay happy, you kick butt in the gym, and absorb valuable nutrients like vitamins A, D, & K. Bonus: fat helps your skin look great, and makes food taste good!

So: know your healthy fats; get the right amount; and eat healthy fats at most meals.

Healthy fats include: oils, such as olive, coconut, flax seed, hemp seed, canola and omega-3 oils (from fish or algae); butter; olives; avocado or guacamole; nuts and nut butters; peanuts and peanut butter; seeds such as chia, ground flax, pumpkin, sunflower or hemp. Other foods like whole eggs, fish, dairy and meats have some healthy fats, but these are your super-stars.

Most fats keep well in the pantry or fridge, so you can buy them in bulk. And unlike proteins and veggies, they come ready to eat.

What makes these fats healthy? They are naturally occurring in the foods where they’re found; and they are relatively minimally processed (they are either whole foods or are simply pressed or ground).

What makes other fats unhealthy? They don’t naturally occur in the foods they’re found in; they have to be created through an industrial process. They increase inflammation and the risk of heart disease and cancer.

Most of us have heard of trans fats; they have gotten a lot of bad press in the last few years. These fats are created in an industrial process. While most food companies have removed trans fats from their processed foods, it’s still prudent to read the labels. Look for “partially hydrogenated” or “vegetable shortening” on the label. Also look for mono- and diglycerides, a processed form of fat used as emulsifiers. There is no amount of industrial trans fat consumption that is considered safe. Do your best to minimize your intake.

Industrial vegetable or seed oils can only be created with industrial processing, using high heat and harsh chemicals. These include corn, cottonseed, safflower, soybean and sunflower oils. They are found in commercial salad dressings and mayo, and butter substitutes.

Omega-3 oils are our healthy fat super-star. Omega-3s are found in nuts & seeds like flax seed, chia seeds, walnuts & hemp; and in marine life, like cold water fish, shellfish and algae.

Omega-3s keep our hearts and brains healthy; lower inflammation; improve cell communication; keep our joints mobile; and help build muscle and keep us lean. There is strong evidence that omega-3s can improve blood lipids (triglycerides and HDL cholesterol) and help regulate metabolism and blood sugar.

Start with getting some cold water fish in your diet; think about supplementing if you don’t eat fish.

Again, using our hand as our measuring guide, a portion of healthy fats is the size of your thumb. Aim for about 1 thumb-sized portion per meal. Caution! This is easy to overdo, since most fats are so tasty!

Different kinds of oils and fats are better for different kinds of cooking. For high heat cooking, like searing meats, try avocado oil, grapeseed oil, or clarified butter or ghee. For medium heats, like sauteing or simmering, try extra-virgin olive oil, coconut oil or regular butter. For baking, try regular butter, coconut oil, expeller-pressed canola oil, avocado oil, or even avocados. For things like salad dressings, which stay cold or at room temperature, try cold-pressed nut and seed oils: hemp seed, pumpkin seed, walnut, hazelnut or flax seed oils.

Know your healthy fats; eat some at most meals (watch those portion sizes!); eat fewer trans fats and industrial vegetable and seed oils; get creative, try some variety, and enjoy! Because fat makes food taste good!

Information for this post is sourced from my nutrition coaching program, powered by Precision Nutrition's ProCoach platform.

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