I’m finally home from a long weekend in Vegas! I passed my midterm with flying colors and have now learned all the client consultation skills. Now I just need to practice on some clients (any takers in the Atlanta area?) until our next and final workshop in October.
Thanks to Christy Knutson and Laura Nixon for coming to keep me company in Vegas. It was great seeing you both and regurgitating all the things I’m learning on you!
So today I want to talk about fats and how I’ve changed my perspective on them in the last year. Everywhere we look we hear about the latest fad diet or low-fat/fat free food. I will admit it, for years, Weight Watchers was my go-to diet. Despite my all-natural upbringing, I bought in to their processed foods and the idea that it didn’t really matter what you ate or drank (Diet Sodas were deemed a perfect zero-point beverage option.), as long as you didn’t exceed your daily point allowance. This plan worked for me time and time again, but I always gained the weight back as soon as I went back to my normal way of eating, not to mention the fact that I was STARVING all the time when I was on the plan.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not totally knocking Weight Watchers. I think they do a lot of things right, like providing weekly accountability and encouragement, and they are starting to get wise about eating more whole foods. I think the makers of a lot of the most popular diet plans have the best of intentions, but they’ve simply missed the mark.
Now I see that it’s not about a quick fix, but our overall health, vitality and well-being, and it’s not just about how we look, but also about how we feel and how we can best take care of the bodies we’ve been given. One of the ways we can do that is with HEALTHY FAT. Yes, fat is our friend everybody, despite what you might read in the magazines or see on television or in the grocery stores! They are absolutely essential to our health and play the following roles in the body:
- Provide long-burning energy
- Important in the makeup of cell membranes
- Necessary for healthy liver function (building healthy cholesterol and bile)
- Required for the absorption of the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K
- Required for adequate use of proteins
- Serve as a protective lining for the organs
- Help slow the absorption of food for proper energy regulation
- Imperative to the inflammatory process, therefore reducing healing time
- MAKES FOOD TASTE GOOD (If we’re more satisfied, we won’t eat as much!)
All fats and oils are some combination of three types of fatty acids:
SATURATED: Found in animal fats and tropical oils; highly stable, does not go rancid easily, solid or semi-solid at room temperature, non-essential because the body can make them
MONOUNSATURATED: Found in olive oils and oils from almonds, pecans, cashews, peanuts and avocados; relatively stable, do not go rancid easily, liquid at room temperature, non-essential because the body can make them
POLYUNSATURATED: Found in flax, nuts, seeds and fish oil (the omega 3/6 oils); relatively unstable, go rancid easily, always liquid, two are essential (linoleic and alpha-linolenic acid), NEVER heat or use for cooking
It’s important to know the properties of these different types of fatty acids so we know when and how to use them. For instance, many people know that olive oil is really healthy for them, but they may not know that it loses it’s nutritional properties when heated to high temperatures. That’s why it’s best to use olive oil for things like salad dressings and marinades and cook with more stable saturated fats like butter or coconut oil. It’s also important to be aware of which oils are unstable and store them in dark containers in a nice cool place so they don’t go rancid. Supermarket oils in clear, plastic bottles and shelved under bright lights and not refrigerated are not supporting the nutritional properties found in them! We want to make sure we soak up all the great nutritional benefits of the fats we’re eating.
Finally, I can’t talk about fats without pointing out the villain of all fats: genetically modified hydrogenated and partially-hydrogenated oils. As time passes, more and more negative things are uncovered about hydrogenated oils from fried foods. Hydrogenation is the food industry’s way of turning a liquid oil into a solid fat. It changes the chemistry of the oil so that it is unusable to the body. It also gives packaged foods a longer shelf-life than if they were made with natural oils. (Fun fact: The process of hydrogenation started during World War II, when we needed to preserve the shelf-life of foods in order to send them overseas to the troops!) Hydrogenation produces trans fats, which have been linked to a number of health problems. Here are just a few of them:
- Women with higher levels of trans fats in their cells are much more likely to develop breast cancer than those with low levels.
- Trans fats are incorporated into the cells and make them less resistant to bacteria and viruses. They are a source of immune system problems.
- There may be a link between trans fats and ADD, depression and fatigue. Brain and nerve tissue have a high content of fat, and some researchers believe that when trans fats are incorporated into the nerve cells, they affect certain functions and create problems.
- Muscle fatigue and skin problems are also linked to hydrogenated oils.
- Pain and inflammation become much worse for clients who consume hydrogenated oils. They chemically prevent the formation of natural and anti-inflammatory substances that are normally produced in the body.
Most chips and fried snacks contain hydrogenated oils. They are found in many packaged foods like crackers, cereals and bread and condiments like margarine, mayonnaise, bottled dressings and marinades. It’s so important that we READ LABELS and avoid giving these foods to our kids. We should also avoid cooking and baking with highly unstable vegetable oils.
So take it from this ex-Weight Watcher and go eat some good fat today! My favorites are avocados, almonds and coconut oil (great for stir-frying or in smoothies). I’ve found that since I started eating more good fats, I’m not only more satisfied at meals, but I’ve lost weight!
Do you have any suggestions for recipes/snacks with healthy fats? If so, drop me a line!