Fat. Just the word sends a shudder through the diet world. And as a nutritionist, it’s absolutely maddening. Why are people still afraid of fat? It has been reinforced in misinformed diets for decades now, and my hope is that it won’t take that long to undo the damage. The fact is, there is a huge difference between “good” fat and “bad” fat. While I don’t always like using such black and white terms with food, when it comes to fat I believe it fits.
Good fats are packed with so many good things – we need them for so many things, both internal and external. Fats make and balance hormones. They help keep our skin supple and our hair thick and shiny. The simple fact that our brains are made up of fats should make it, well, a no-brainer!
And if you need further evidence, my favourite good fat sources are also packed with other nutritional must-haves:
Avocado: The monounsaturated fat actually helps lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and raise your HDL (good) cholesterol, and they’re a great source of B vitamins too. I love adding it to salads, gluten-free toast…pretty much everything!
Olive oil: It’s full of fatty acids and antioxidants that reduce the risk of heart disease. One of my go-to oils for homemade salad dressings.
Coconut oil: A true superfood. The saturated fat raise good cholesterol and can improve blood cholesterol, potentially lowering the risk of heart disease. I use coconut oil for just about everything, as it’s great for high-heat cooking.
Tahini: A paste made from sesame seeds, tahini is not only a good source of healthy fats but is also rich in minerals like magnesium and iron, and is a phenomenal source of calcium. I love adding tahini to sauces and even smoothies.
Raw nuts and seeds: Almonds, walnuts, Brazil nuts, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and chia seeds are packed with high quality omega 3s, -6s and -9s to reduce inflammation and promote cell growth. They’re a fantastic on-the-go snack, and also make a great crunchy topping for oats and yoghurt.
Flaxseed: The omega-3 essential fatty acids in flaxseed (or linseeds) have heart-healthy effects and are also a great source of micronutrients and dietary fiber. It’s great to add to baking (or morning pancakes), oats and smoothies.
Oily fish: Salmon is my favourite and is an amazing source of omega 3 fatty acids, quality protein and essential vitamins and amino acids. Try mackerel and trout, too.
Eggs: Truly the perfect food – as long as you eat the yolks! They contain 100% of the fat soluble vitamins A, D, E and K found in an egg, and 90% of the calcium, iron, folate, zinc, and vitamins B6 and B12.
And now, the bad fats. The reason these are best to be avoided? They’re loaded with trans fats – the ones that raise your LDL cholesterol and lower your HDL cholesterol. They’re typically found (or hidden!) in processed and packaged foods such as:
- Baked goods (cookies, cakes and biscuits)
- Salty snacks (popcorn and chips)
- Deep fried foods
It’s quite clear that there’s a broad range of fats, both good and bad – and that it’s easy to differentiate the two. Your best bet is to always go for foods from nature; foods in their whole form, not processed. It’s time to feed your body – and mind – the good stuff!