Why are we all so fearful of fat in our diet? Maybe because of all the media hype around "good" versus "bad" fats. I think it best to remember that not all oils and fats are created equal. The recent government initiative that plans to ban "trans" fats nationally is way overdue. Heavily processed, hydrogenated, “trans” fats and oils that are used in prepared, packaged foods can be extremely damaging to the body. However, fats and oils from whole foods and other high-quality sources can steady our metabolism, keep hormone levels even, nourish our skin, hair and nails and provide lubrication to keep the body functioning fluidly. Our bodies also need fat for insulation and to protect and hold our organs in place.
A healthy percentage of high-quality fat in a meal is satisfying, energizing, and fulfilling. Excess fats and oils in the diet, especially processed fats in heavily processed foods, can lead to weight gain, skin breakouts, high blood pressure, liver strain and an overall feeling of mental, physical and emotional heaviness. And signs of insufficient high-quality fats are brittle hair and nails, dry skin, hunger after meals and feeling cold.
There are many sources of healthy fats and oils:
For sautéing and baking, try butter, ghee (clarified butter) or coconut oil because they do not break down when used at high temperatures.
For sautéing foods at moderate temperatures, try organic extra virgin olive oil.
Oils like flaxseed, sesame, toasted sesame, walnut and pumpkin seed are best used unheated in sauces or dressings on top of salads, veggies or grains.
Other healthy fats are found in whole nuts and seeds and in their butters like almond and cashew butter or tahini.
Whole foods such as avocados, olives and coconuts (keeping portion size in mind) are great sources of healthy fat, along with wild salmon and omega-3 and omega-6 organic eggs.
Experiment with these healthy fat sources and see which work best for you and leave you satisfied.
Confused about what oil to buy? When selecting oils, buy the highest-quality organic products you can afford, since cooking oils are the backbone of so many dishes. Good words to look for on the label are organic, first-pressed, cold-pressed, extra-virgin and unrefined. Words to avoid are expeller-pressed, refined and solvent extracted.
Try this barley-avocado-mushroom recipe for a punch of good fats, fiber, minerals, and other nutrients. You can use any grain and vegetables with avocado - red pepper, scallion, and sauteed baby kale/spinach go well together with any grain.