Three Reasons to Make Friends with Healthy Fats
Another great blog – this one on on healthy fats – from our nutrition coach, Michelle Cartmel.
Attention! For those of you who grew up in the Snackwell era, this post may be difficult to swallow.
“Bad” fats or bad information?
Picture it: it’s 1994, you’re in your dorm room, and you and your friends have just consumed a box of vanilla creme Snackwells because, well, they were low-fat after all, so how bad could they be? You felt great about choosing that over a small cup of full-fat ice cream!
Breakfast the next morning might have been a bagel with non-fat cream cheese. Dessert that night was – what else – no-fat or low-fat froyo! To borrow from today’s popular slang, you were #winningatlife!
Fast forward to 2017, and that indelible mindset around eating non-fat and low-fat foods is still imprinted in our brains, no thanks to big food marketers. Even though many of us are now a tad more enlightened about food choices, it’s still tough to wrap our brains around eating foods with fat.
One of my favorite food heroes, award-winning author, journalist and activist Michael Pollan advises us in his book Food Rules to avoid eating any foods labeled “lite,” “low-fat” or “non-fat” because manufacturers often bump up the sugar content in our food to compensate for the flavor that was lost by eliminating the fat.
Pollan’s research on the topic indicates that since Americans began eating low-fat food products, we’ve actually been increasing up to 500 extra calories per day!
Yes, there are good fats
As a health and wellness coach, my job is to steer my clients into making smarter food choices, and at the top of my recommendations is always incorporating healthy fats into your diet.
What is a good/healthy fat? The whole good-fat-versus-bad-fat thing can be quite confusing, so I think it’s important to keep it simple and focus on the good: unsaturated fats.
Under the “good,” unsaturated fat umbrella fall polyunsaturated fats and monounsaturated fats. Polyunsaturated fats can be found in vegetable oils, in fatty fish (salmon, trout mackerel), flax seeds and walnuts. Monounsaturated fats can be found in olives, avocados, nuts such as cashews and almonds, and oils (olive, canola, peanut).
And bad fats
The bad fats to try and avoid are saturated fats found in meat, poultry skin and high-fat dairy, coconut and palm oils. Also avoid artificial trans fats which are used in many of the processed baked goods and snack foods that call our names from the grocery aisle and which are used to make French fries at our favorite local diner. These should generally be avoided, as they are likely to wind up as the seemingly inescapable menopausal belly bump.
Why are good fats “good”?
There are so many good reasons to make friends with healthy fats. Like a good friend, healthy fats can enhance the quality of your life. Do we choose friends who make us feel badly about ourselves? Certainly not intentionally! So why would we choose foods that make us feel bad when there are so many good ones out there? Here are three of my favorite reasons to make friends with healthy fats.
- They energize us and enhance our overall well-being. There are so many “healthy fat” super foods that are packed with nutrients impossible to find in manufactured foods. Take walnuts for example; one small handful of walnuts is packed with Omega-3s, fiber, vitamins, and minerals which, if eaten consistently, can help us to lower cholesterol, reduce our risk of cancer and heart disease, and even sleep better.
- Healthy fats enhance our cognitive abilities. If we’re smart about our food choices, research indicates that we can increase our chances of sustaining a healthy brain as we age. Adding foods with healthy fats like wild salmon, nuts/seeds and avocados to our weekly dietary regimen can support and elevate brain function. For example, avocado (a monounsatured fat) increases a healthy blood flow and helps to lower blood pressure, both of which promote good brain health.
- Healthy fats can help us to maintain a slim waistline (when eaten in moderation). Dr. Oz (another of my food heroes) shared a study from the American Diabetic Association which found that eating a diet rich in monounsaturated fats actually decreased belly fat and improves insulin sensitivity, which is important for good blood sugar control. To put this principle to work, Dr. Oz prescribes eating foods with monounsaturated fats at every meal and ensuring that 50% of the fat calories you eat in a day come from monounsaturated fats. I’ll eat to that! His recommended portions of monounsaturated fats: 1/4 avocado, 10 olives, 2 T. olive oil, 2 T. nuts, 2 T. nut butter, 1/4 cup of dark chocolate chips.
In addition to some of the foods listed above, my go-to’s include eggs, flaxseed (ground or whole), and veggies like kale, Brussels sprouts, and spinach which are high in Omega 3s. Foods that boast healthy fats are only one part of the equation; like anything else, it’s important to eat these things in moderation and as part of a well-rounded, nutrient-dense diet of vegetables, greens, fruit, healthy whole grains, lean protein and vitamins in midlife.
Bottom line, choose your foods the way you would your friends; high quality maximizes your overall output, happiness and satisfaction in life.
Cheers to your health,
How are you feeding yourself for optimal health? We’d love to know. Share with the community in the comments below, or hit us up on Gennev’s Facebook page or Midlife & Menopause Solutions, genneve’s closed Facebook group.
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