May 2014 Newsletter: The Skinny on Fat

Fat, fat, fat! Would all of our weight loss problems be solved if we removed fat from our diets? Unfortunately, it's not that simple. We actually need fats -- can't live without them, in fact.

However, heavily processed, hydrogenated “trans” fats used in some prepared, packaged, or fried foods can be extremely damaging to the body. They can compromise the cardiovascular and immune systems and contribute to behavior problems. They can also lead to weight gain, skin breakouts, high blood pressure, and liver strain. Genetics, age, sex, and lifestyle also weigh into the weight-gain formula.

But high-quality fats are an important part of a healthy diet. They provide essential fatty acids, keep our skin soft, deliver fat-soluble vitamins, steady our metabolism, keep hormone levels even, and are a great source of energizing fuel. Many people are scared of fats, but our bodies need fat for insulation, vitamin and mineral absorption, and organs protection.

As with eveything in life, moderation is important. Even healthy fats need to be eaten sparingly. Also, one needs to be aware of portion size. At 9 calories per gram, fat is calorie-dense. (Carbs and protein have only 4 calories per gram, while alcohol has 7 calories per gram.) Given the calorie density of healthy fats, one can easily overeat them without getting a balance of proteins, carbohydrates, and fiber in one's diet.

Where can you find healthy fats?

  • Avocados, olives, coconuts, wild salmon, and omega-3 rich organic eggs.

  • Whole nuts and seeds and their butters, like almond butter or tahini (sesame seed butter).

  • The highest quality organic oils. When shopping, look for these words: organic, first-pressed, cold-pressed, extra-virgin, and unrefined. Avoid oils defined as expeller-pressed, refined, and solvent extracted.

What fats are best for cooking?

  • At high temperatures (stir frying and baking), try butter, clarified butter, or coconut oil.

  • When sautéing foods, try organic extra virgin olive oil.

  • In unheated sauces or dressings, use oils made from flaxseed, sesame, toasted sesame, walnut, and pumpkin seed.

Here's a delicious, easy recipe that is a great source of healthy fat:

Avocado Dip
Prep time: 3 minutes
Makes 1 cup – Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • 1 large avocado, peeled and pitted

  • 2/3 cup organic plain yogurt, goat yogurt, coconut yogurt, or almond yogurt

  • 1 small tomato, diced

  • a squirt of lemon or lime juice

  • a dash or two of cayenne pepper

  • sea salt and black pepper

Directions:

  • Mash avocado with a fork until very smooth.

  • Add yogurt (dairy or non-dairy), tomato, and cayenne. Blend thoroughly. This may be done in a food processor, in a blender, or with a fork.

  • Add sea salt and fresh black pepper to taste.

  • Serve chilled with mixed raw vegetables or place in  a healthy high-fiber, high-protein, whole grain/whole wheat wrap with some raw vegetables for a hearty meal.