Why "Fat" is Not a Dirty Word
(Based on an article by Susan Bowerman – Director, Worldwide Nutrition Education and Training)
The words "fat" usually elicits a negative reaction. It's something to avoid. It's has unpleasant associations. But the fact of the matter is that we do need fats in our diet, and they don't necessarily add to our body fat.
Fats can be divided up into two broad categories: saturated (unhealthy fats) and unsaturated (beneficial fats). Of the two, the unsaturated fats are considered better for you, since these fats are derived primarily from plant foods and can help to keep blood cholesterol levels within a normal range. On the other hand, a diet with a lot of saturated fats (found primarily in animal products like butter, cheese, whole milk and meat), can contribute to a rise in cholesterol.
Unsaturated fats can be further broken down into two categories: monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats. You’ll find monounsaturated fats in nuts, seeds, olive oils and avocados. They’re considered beneficial when eaten in moderate amounts.
Polyunsaturated fats can be further classified as either omega-3 or omega-6 fats. While your body requires both types, you need them in the proper balance to promote health. The problem for most of us is that we eat too many omega-6 fats (fried foods, snack foods and sweet baked goods) and not enough fish, nuts, seeds and leafy greens that provide the omega-3s.
How to Get More Good Fats Into Your Diet
The foods that contain beneficial fats include nuts and seeds, olives and olive oil, seafood and avocados. Here are some ways to work more of these beneficial fats into your day.
Nuts and Seeds
Almonds, pistachios, walnuts and pecans are considered tree nuts, which have more heart-healthy omega-3 than peanuts (not actually nuts, but beans). Here are some ways to include more nuts and seeds into your diet.
- A handful of nuts make a filling snack.
- Try stirring some nut butter into oatmeal, yogurt or protein shakes; or spread some on apple slices for a quick snack.
- Finely ground nuts make a delicious crispy coating for fish or chicken. Dip fish fillets or chicken breasts into beaten egg white, then lightly coat with ground nuts. Season with salt and pepper, then bake or saute.
- Sprinkle nuts or seeds into green salads, on top of cooked vegetables, yogurt or hot cereal, and into your shakes.
- Add nuts and seeds to trail mix.
- Tahini (sesame seed paste) makes a delicious base for a salad dressing or sauce.
Olive Oil and Olives
Olive oil is also one of the richest sources of monounsaturated fat. If the flavour of extra-virgin olive oil is too strong for you, look for light olive oils that have the same calories as regular olive oil, but are lighter in flavour.
- •Use olive oil to replace vegetable oils and butter when you cook.
- Make your own salad dressing with 2 parts olive oil, 1 part lemon juice or vinegar; salt and pepper to taste.
- Use a tiny bit of olive oil to flavour cooked vegetables.
- Add whole olives to salad, or chopped olives to pasta sauces, or stirred into whole grain dishes after cooking.
- Try an olive spread on whole grain crackers. Whip up chopped olives, garlic and a little tomato paste in the blender.
Fish fat naturally contains heart-healthy omega-3.
- Canned tuna and salmon are super-convenient. Flake some tuna or salmon on top of a green salad for a quick meal.
- Add frozen cooked prawns and scallops to soups or pasta dishes.
- Use fish instead of chicken in some of your favorite dishes like tacos or one-dish meals.
- Order fish more often in restaurants.
Avocados are technically a fruit and a good source of monounsaturated fat. Here are a few of my favorite uses for avocado.
- Use mashed avocado as a substitute for mayonnaise in tuna salad or egg salad.
- Mash into guacamole with a little lime juice and salt; use cut veggies rather than chips for dipping.
- Try a few slices of avocado in an omelet, or on top of hard-boiled eggs.
- Mix diced avocado, mango and red onion with a little lime juice and coriander into a delicious salsa.