We have been brainwashed to run from fat, any fat, as if being pursued by King Kong through the streets of Manhattan. Now with the recent studies telling us to stop running away from fat, what gives?
The Snackwell Generation
Who could blame anyone for thinking that most, if not all, dietary fat makes us flabby, sick and ultimately kills us. Low-fat and fat-free foods were marketed to us as healthy and quickly became pantry stables. What is becoming clear now, is that all the processed, over-sugared and "fake" foods that were sent in to save us are making us sick...and fat. Recent studies suggest that optimal health is best achieved when we eat a wide variety of natural, organic and/or local foods (including healthy fats) that are minimally processed. I love it when common sense and science go hand in hand.
Embrace the Avocado, crack an egg
Most of the confusion surrounding fat has to do with saturated fats and, which were thought to have a direct link to heart disease by increasing levels of bad cholesterol (LDL). As it turns out, saturated fats are linked to an increase in the good cholesterol (HDL). HDL works as our internal janitor, roaming our bodies removing the garbage (LDL). In simple terms, saturated fats' ability to produce HDL (good) trumps any connection it might have to production of LDL (bad).
Being thin may always be "in" but fat is where its at.
Try these healthy fats to add some variety to your diet and cooking routine:
You may be surprised to learn that coconut oil is one of the most heart healthy fats out there and some consider it a bonafide super-food, along side the wholesome blueberry and and head of broccoli. Coconut oil is made up of medium chain triglycerides. These MCT's help combat brain disorders like Alzheimer's and dementia. They increase our energy output, meaning that regular (reasonable) consumption of coconut oil leads to weight LOSS. It also contains Lauric Acid which fights pathogens in the body including viruses and infections.
How to use it:
In high heat cooking like stir fries and baked goods. It also pairs well with bitter greens like kale (blended up in a smoothie or sauteed). When it comes to baking, think of coconut oil as a healthy alternative to butter or shortening.
Really?! As an uber moisturizer: Yup. Because it is a solid at room temperature, just rub it on dry skin or work into the dry ends of your hair.
Also a nutritional powerhouse, Sesame Oil contains high amounts of magnesium and therefor helps to reduce blood pressure, prevent diabetes and colorectal cancers. What else? Sesame oil contains zinc (a bone health booster), fiber (digestive aid) and copper (relief for arthritis). I could go on and on.
How to use it:
Use refined sesame oil in high heat cooking like stir frying. Unrefined and toasted sesame oil can be used to add a layers of flavor to asian dishes and salads.
Really?! For oral health. Have you heard of oil pulling yet? This ancient practice is the latest celebrity health craze and it is best described as a type of detox for the mouth. By swishing sesame oil around in your mouth for a few minutes, the lipids in the oil absorb toxins like bacteria and plaque to give you a cleaner and whiter smile. Be sure to spit out the oil (so as not to swallow the toxins) and brush after. Voila! Red carpet ready.
Avocado and Olive Oil:
Both of these oils contain monounsaturated fat which helps to lower the aforementioned bad (LDL) cholesterol. They also contain vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant missing from most american diets.
How to use:
Both of these oils do well in medium heat cooking. Because of their unique, sumptuous flavor, they shine when used as a drizzle, dip or dressing.
Really?! Use half an avocado as a smoothie base (blend with almond milk and cacao powder) or to make a heart-healthy chocolate mousse.
Butter and other animal fats:
Good old fashioned butter is always better than that other stuff as far as I'm concerned. A cube of maytag bleu drizzled with honey or an omelette aux fines herbes will always have a place in my kitchen. Unless you're a strict vegan, of course, you shouldn't be scared to consume a moderate amount of animal fat in your regular diet. The problem with diet crazes and fads is that they preach a reliance on one food group (Atkins! The carb craze!) and vilify certain food groups. Did eating tons of steak but going easy on the apples ever really make sense? Lean red meats, chicken and pork offer variety of nutrients and flavors, resulting in a well-rounded and palate pleasing (read: not boring) diet.
Avoid or limit:
Overly processed "vegetable" oils like canola, corn and soybean and those made with GMO crops are getting a lot of heat right now. Often times these oils are refined using a complex process that involves chemicals and intense heat.