Healthy Fats, Healthy You: A Guide to Getting the Good Ones in Your Diet
By Kandace Brands, Avera Integrative Medicine Clinic Nutrition Health Coach
How you feel about fat in your diet is probably shaped by upbringing, since most of us have grown up with the message that fat is really bad.
With some time to look at the information, now we can see that low-fat and no-fat diets of the 1990s and 2000s have done much more harm than good.
In fact, growing data from research is showing that many women’s hormonal imbalances could be due to low-fat diets, because hormones are produced from fat and cholesterol. You have to realize the crucial role adequate amounts of good healthy fat play when it comes to maintaining our overall health.
The ongoing research on the importance of fats and brain health is exciting stuff.
You may be confused as to which fats are good and which ones you should consume regularly, so a little guide below can really help you.
The first thing to keep in mind is that fats are high in calories. That’s where they got the bad reputation in the first place, since many have more than double the calories than a comparable amount of carbohydrates or proteins.
So, yes, we need to be careful with how much we consume; we cannot have a “free-for-all” just because we learned they offer great health benefits. We have to carefully choose the best fats for us each day.
The quality of your fats is absolutely critical for your health, and the Institute of Integrative Nutrition and Institute for Functional Medicine recommends these as the best sources of dietary fats:
- Wild-caught fish
- Pasture-raised eggs
- Extra virgin olive oil (good quality)
- Cold-pressed, unrefined coconut oil
- Organic avocados
- Raw, soaked nuts and seeds
- Grass-fed dairy products such as ghee, full-fat cheese, yogurt and kefir
Try these recipes:
One thing you may have not considered is how you cook with fats. Some fats and oils are better suited for higher temperatures. All oils have a smoke point, and that’s the temperature when the oil or fat actually breaks down and is damaged. The smoke it creates also can be harmful to our health.
While smoke points can vary depending on quality, however it is important to know that the best cooking oils to use with higher temperatures are ghee, as well as the oils of coconuts and avocados. A good example of a “good” fat that’s not so great for cooking at high temperatures is extra-virgin olive oil. Save that for low heat-cooking assignments, in dressings or add it to foods after they’re cooked.
Light, heat and air or plastic containers all can cause damage to the fats and oils you want to use. Look for dark glass bottles for oils, and store your fats and oils away from the stove or other heat sources in a dark place.
Now that you know a bit more about sources of good quality healthy fat, the next step includes finding places where you can fit them in your diet.
You should aim for a baseline standard of about 30 percent of your calories coming from healthy fats. This is a good starting point, but it’s not easy right out of the gate.
We work with people making this transition all the time, and we’d love to help you determine which fats and other nutritional questions could benefit you.
Want to test your knowledge of fats? You can do so online with this test.