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Understanding Healthy Fats

Updated: 5 days ago

Everything you need to know and how to incorporate them into your diet.

How We Became Scared of Fat

It’s 1976, President Ford is in office, men are eating bacon for breakfast every morning, and are dying prematurely of heart disease. The United States has a “wake-up call” and calls to raise awareness of the link between diet and disease. The first set of dietary guidelines for Americans is released and puts the blame on fats. Milk, cheeses, and fatty meats are now meant to be avoided and replaced with carbohydrates in an effort to live longer and stay thin. Science later understood the importance of healthy fats in our diet but it still changed the way we continue to see fats.

It's easy to believe that consuming fats makes you fat. America has a fat-free option for everything, making us believe that by choosing a food that has a fat-free label we are making the healthier choice. Those who at one point counted their calorie intake may have realized food containing healthy fats was higher in calories and naturally chose another food. We have been misguided to believe that fat is something to stay away from, but I’m here to teach you how to embrace healthy fats.

Why We Actually Need Fat in Our Diet

Our bodies need healthy fats! When I talk about fats I’m talking about the fats found in cuts of meat, butter, and olive oil rather than those found in a box of Cheez-Its. Healthy fats are responsible for giving our bodies the ability to carry out so many functions.

These including,

  • providing energy

  • hormone production

  • protecting your organs

  • absorbing minerals and vitamins and so many others.

Without fats, our bodies respond with

  • dry rashes

  • a weakened immune system

  • vitamin deficiencies

  • and hair loss.

The problem only arises when we consume too much fat. In the 1960s and '70s, the problem was lack of moderation. Instead of eating red meat once or twice a week, they ate it every day for lunch and dinner. The excess of fats raises bad cholesterol, clogs your arteries, and increases the risk of heart disease and strokes.

Understanding Saturated Fats, Unsaturated Fats, and Trans fats

Saturated fats

A simple and quick trick I learned to distinguish saturated fat is its consistency while at room temperature. Saturated fats are tightly packed and don't contain any double bonds between fatty acids leaving them to remain solid at room temperature. Butter, a saturated fat, keeps a solid shape when you leave it out on the counter.

Foods with Saturated Fats

  • beef

  • lamb

  • pork

  • poultry, especially with skin

  • Tallow (beef fat)

  • lard and cream

  • butter

  • cheese

  • Coconut oil

Unsaturated Fats

Are the opposite of saturated fats as they tend to be liquid because of their loosely packed chemical structure. Olive oil, for example, stays a liquid at room temperature.

Foods with Unsaturated Fats

  • Olive, peanut, and canola oils

  • Avocados

  • Nuts such as almonds, hazelnuts, and pecans

  • Seeds such as pumpkin and sesame seeds

Trans Fat

There are actually two types of trans fats. Naturally occurring trans fats and artificial trans fats. Naturally occurring trans fats are found in small amounts of some animal meats and the food that they produce such as milk and cheese. These trans fats are fine. It’s artificial trans fats that can be harmful to your health. Through a chemical process of adding hydrogen to vegetable oils, trans fats are added to many processed foods to enhance their texture and taste.

Foods with Trans fats

  • Fried foods- donuts, french fries

  • Shortening

  • Microwave popcorn

  • Frozen pizza

  • Margarine

Which Fats Do I Recommend?

Saturated fats! The majority of my fat intake and the fats that I recommend to my clients are saturated fats. With a balanced diet, and focusing on eating according to your seasons you'll find that consuming fats isn't something that you need to make an effort to consume. While eating a balanced diet healthy fats are the hidden gems in your food.

However, saturated fats have been drug through the mud. The debate about consuming saturated fats in your diet has been going on for decades. Again, it’s only when you consume too much saturated fat that your cholesterol rises and your risk for heart disease increases.

  • Slow Cooker Thai Green Curry with Coconut Milk (recipe at the end of this blog)

  • Air Fryer Meatballs (recipe at the end of this blog as well)

  • Ribeye Steak with Grass-fed Butter

  • Air Fryer Meatballs

  • Steak Teriyaki Bowl

  • Scotch Eggs

Which Fats to Stay Away From

Seed oils, an unsaturated fat are something I recommend staying away from. Although affordable, they cause more harm than we think. Seed oils are rich in omega-6 and not rich enough in omega-3 which creates inflammation in the body. They also go through a heavy refining process in order to improve the taste as well as extend their shelf life. The refining process often strips the oils of their beneficial compounds making them far less nutrional.

Dr. Cate Shanahan, a board-certified physician and author writes, “They act like toxins in the body, accumulate in our body fat, increase feelings of hunger, hamper the body’s ability to utilize stored energy, and contribute to chronic disease.”

For the rest of Dr. Shanahan’s thoughts click here.

Seed oils

  • soybean,

  • canola,

  • palm,

  • peanut,

  • safflower,

  • sunflower,

  • and corn oil

When cooking with oils, I recommend using extra virgin olive oil and avocado oil.

The Takeaway

Don’t shy away from healthy fats! They do your body good. If your toast would be better with a little butter spread on top, go for it! If you are craving a piece of red meat but worried about how fattening it would be, don’t worry! If you take away anything from this piece I hope that fat, when consumed in moderation is good for you. I know it can be hard but try breaking the cycle of staying away from healthy fats. Theyre not your enemy.

My Favorite Recipes That Have a Healthy Dose of Fats

Slow Cooker Thai Green Curry with Coconut Milk

  • 2 lb bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs

  • 6 tablespoons Thai green curry paste, I like this one

  • 2 tablespoons gluten-free soy sauce

  • 3 cups red bell pepper, sliced

  • 1 cup green beans, topped and tailed

  • 1 cup carrots

  • 1 red chili, chopped and deseeded

  • 15 oz coconut milk, 1 can

  • salt, to taste

  • pepper, to taste

  • Coconut oil, for frying

  • Rice

1. Sear the chicken in batches in a few tablespoons of oil, seasoning with salt and pepper as you go.

2. Transfer to the slow cooker, spoon over the Thai green curry paste, and drizzle over the soy sauce.

3. Cook on high for 2.5 hours.

4. Stir in the peppers, green beans, carrots chili, and coconut milk.

5. Cook for a further 30 minutes.

6. Serve over rice. Enjoy!

Air Fryer Meatballs

  • 1 pound ground beef

  • ½ pound ground pork

  • ⅓ cup gluten-free bread crumbs

  • 1 egg

  • 2 tablespoons milk

  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley

  • 1 tablespoon parmesan cheese grated

  • ½ teaspoon Italian seasoning

  • ½ teaspoon onion powder

  • ½ teaspoon salt

  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper

  1. Combine all ingredients except beef and pork in a medium bowl. Mix well.

  2. Add beef and pork and mix to combine. Roll into meatballs.

  3. Preheat the air fryer to 400°F.

  4. Place meatballs in a single layer in the air fryer. Turn the air fryer down to 380°F.

  5. Cook meatballs for 12-14 minutes or until browned and the center of the meatball reaches 165°F.

  6. Rest 3 minutes before serving.

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