by Christy Baroni
Dietary fat has gotten a bad rap over the past few decades. The 70’s and 80’s had us believing that fat from whole foods led to heart disease, obesity, and a myriad of other unfavorable outcomes. It kinda made sense that the fat you eat will show up as fat on your hind parts, right? Not necessarily. Recent science has proven that eating fat doesn’t (necessarily) make you fat.
Here are some fun facts about fat before we get in to the good stuff:
1- Fat is a macronutrient. (Macronutrient: Noun, meaning belonging to a class of chemical compounds humans must consume in large quantity to both sustain life and growth.)
2- Fat is the most energy dense macronutrient.
3- Dietary fat is necessary for hormonal balance, cell membrane formation and repair, and the transport of vitamins A, D, E, and K to the rest of your body.
Bottom line: you need fat in your diet to not only function but to thrive. So, why the drama about fat leading to all sorts of maladies? As it turns out not all fats are created equal. The source and structure of fat makes the difference between being a helpful nutrient and a health disaster. Here we will take a look at some ways to ensure you are feeding your body the appropriate fats and avoiding the harmful ones.
Let’s get the worst of it out of the way and start with trans fat. Trans fat can be found in commercially processed foods, fried foods, and fast food. If you take nothing else away from this, prioritize eliminating trans fat from your diet. It’s giving all the other fats a bad name with its artery clogging and bad cholesterol inducing shenanigans. Luckily, it’s not hard to eliminate trans fat altogether by building your intake around whole foods. A quick tip for my label readers out there: if you see the word ‘hydrogenated’ in the ingredient list, walk away. That’s trans fat in black and white.
Now on to the good fats! Unsaturated fats have specific benefits that cannot be gleaned from any other nutrient source. These fats positively impact blood triglycerides and promote healthy cholesterol levels. In addition, they can also reduce inflammation and help to regulate your metabolism. Monounsaturated fatty acids are found in things like avocados, chicken, and olive oil. Polyunsaturated fatty acids can be found in fish, fish oil, and flax seeds to name a few. It is the balance of these types of unsaturated fats that contribute to overall health. So, how can you work a healthy balance of these unsaturated fats in to your diet? I’m glad you asked!
Here are some items to add to your grocery list and a few ways to easily add them to your daily intake:
Flax seed – just throw a tablespoon in your blender when you make a smoothie. It adds a little texture to the smoothie with very little impact on the taste.
Cashews – if you have some chicken in the crockpot you can add a ½ cup of cashews to the pot for the last hour of slow cooking. They will retain just enough crunch to liven up any meal!
Avocados – scoop out the middle of an avocado and mash it up. You can use this just like butter on your toast, or as a killer topping on your turkey burger.
Tilapia filets – drizzle a tiny bit of olive oil over the filet, then ‘bread’ the filet with some crushed almonds. Bake at 325 for about 20 mins and prepare to be amazed.
Let me know if you try any of these ideas! If you want more recipes or have a specific question about fat in your diet just send it my way at firstname.lastname@example.org. Take care of yourself and I’ll see you at the box!
Christy Baroni is the Head Nutrition Specialist at CrossFit Hilton Head. She can be reached for comment or for private appointment availability at email@example.com.