Don’t Fear The Fat

One of the things that interests me the most about nutrition is how people tend to categorize foods as either “good” or “bad.” For many years, fat has been seen as the food enemy and is often labeled as “bad,” even though it is an essential part of our diet! As a health coach, I often get questions about what the perfect diet looks like or the best ways to lose weight. So, today I thought I would talk a little bit more about fat and why we should be eating it instead of avoiding it. 
how to select oil

Healthy fats steady our metabolism, keep hormone levels even, nourish our skin, hair, and nails, as well as provide lubrication to keep the body functioning fluidly.  Healthy fats are especially important during cold months to help insulate our bodies from the cold as well as provide energy. 

Many people think that they key to losing weight is to eat a low-fat diet. Although it is important to include the right kinds of fat in our diet, often times a low-fat diet can make us gain weight. 

Have you ever bought something at the grocery store that was labeled low-fat? If you check out the nutrition label, you’ll usually see that it is loaded with sugar! Fat adds flavor to foods so when companies remove the fat from products (e.g. low-fat granola, fat-free cookies, etc), they add in extra sugar to make it taste better. Excess sugar is one of the keys to gaining weight so what we really need to be watching is the sugar content in our diets, especially if we eat the Standard American Diet with lots of packaged food. 

And, eating good fats is one of the keys to healthy weight loss because healthy fats help us feel satiated after a meal, which actually prevents over-eating.  

good fats are healthy
However, not all fats are created equal. Heavily processed, hydrogenated, and “trans” fats used in packaged foods can be extremely damaging to the body so please remove these from your diet and avoid them as much as possible. 
 
Some of my favorite fat sources include:
  • Whole foods such as avocados, olives, and coconuts. (I prefer to use whole-food sources of fat, as opposed to oils, as much as possible because they still contain the nutrients in the food.)
  • Oils like flaxseed, sesame, olive, walnut and pumpkin seed. These are best used raw for salad dressings.
  • Coconut oil, especially for medium to high-heat cooking, as it does not break down when used at higher temperatures. 
When selecting oils, 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
 
One of my favorite ways to include healthy sources of fat in my diet is by using a variety of nuts and seeds, adding avocado to tacos, or roasting veggies in coconut oil (this oil is my favorite). 
 
What are your favorite ways to include healthy fats in your diet?


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Comments

  1. Anonymous says

    What a bummer to read this from you. There is so, so much evidence that adding oils in the diet can have significant adverse health effects. I believe even fats in their whole form (avocados, olives, nuts…) should be consumed in relatively small amounts unless one is trying to gain weight.

    I’ve been eating a whole-food, plant-based diet for several months and have seen improvement in both my weight and health, but when I went oil-free and low-fat a few months ago the improvements increased dramatically.

    We are all certainly allowed our own opinions and feelings about our personal experiences. I’m just disappointed in this blog post. Oh well.

    • says

      I really appreciate this perspective and I think all of our bodies are a little different – some people do better on a lower-fat diet while others may not. I’m definitely not advocating for eating fat in mass quantities, but I think it’s important to re-evaluate the low-fat craze of the 80s and general fear of fat that still exists in much of American culture. I do prefer to focus on whole-food sources of fat, like avocados or nuts, over oils.

      Speaking for myself, I have been on a whole-food, plant-based diet for the past five years and began feeling much better as I added more sources of fat into my diet the past two years. I’m really glad that you found out what works best for you and your body. Thanks for sharing! :)

    • Anonymous says

      Thank you for your kind response, Sonnet.

      Even though we both live in the western United States, I can see that we are in very different surroundings. While those around you are touting the benefits of a low-fat diet, those around me are shocked that I would do such an unhealthy thing as remove oils and reduce high-fat whole-foods from my menu.

      I will agree with you about the low-fat craze of the 80s. The boat was certainly missed when fat was replaced with sugar and other processed ingredients. That craze, in my opinion, gave low-fat diets a bad reputation.

      Have you seen the work from Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn Jr., T. Colin Campbell, Dr. Neal Barnard, Dr. Michael Klaper, Dr. John McDougall, and Dr. Joel Furhman? They’ve all stated repeatedly that oil is not healthy. (In fact, you can google, “olive oil is not health food” and get a pretty good start on some of that point of view.) While not all of their opinions and research have been completely unanimous across the board, my understanding is that all of them say, “No oil.”

      My guess is that the “Fork over Knives” movie has brought a lot of attention to plant-based eating and in so doing also shed a large light on the benefits of low-fat eating. That was one of the pivotal movies that I watched which helped me change the way I eat, and eventually led me to finding your blog.

      I would like to mention two more things. First, when many people talk about a low-fat diet they are actually talking about a high-fat S.A.D. diet, which I concur is not healthy (think Nurses’ Health Study). Second, I agree that we absolutely need fat in our diet, which is great that most plant foods contain it. The question is how much fat do we need? (I certainly don’t think we need to process the olives, remove the nutrients, and extract the oil before we eat it.)

      I, too, am glad that we each found something that works well for us. Thank you for having such a great blog with wonderful recipes.

    • says

      Thanks for your response and I think we are actually in agreement about a lot of this. I am familiar with the names you mentioned and I actually followed Joel Furhman’s “Eat To Live” plan for quite some time. I definitely think we should choose whole food fat sources over oil whenever possible and I did not intend to send the message with this post that eating any oil in mass quantities is healthy. My intent was to provide a response to the popular notion that “fat makes you fat” (as I don’t believe this to be true) and to provide more information for people who do choose to purchase and consume oils about the best types to choose and what to look for. I’m glad you enjoy the recipes here and if you haven’t heard of Carrie On Vegan (http://www.carrieonvegan.com/) or Fat Free Vegan (http://blog.fatfreevegan.com/), I would definitely recommend you visit their blogs since they exclusively post no-oil recipes. :)

  2. says

    Excellent blog post! Cutting out grains and (processed) sugar plus adding healthy fats to my diet (avocados, nuts etc.) has made such a difference in my life.
    My favorite oil is sesame oil as it is one of the most stable oils; for baking, I use coconut oil.

    I wish people had better access to this kind of information; sadly, even most health care professional still recommend and advocate a low-fat diet.

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