It is a common myth that all fats are bad. This, however, is not true.
When we think of food fats we normally think of a great big slab of meat with a distinct layer of thick white fat, the strands of white marbling that lace their way through the piece, and what that is going to do to our cardiovascular system or waist line. We think of the oily juices that drip from sausages, thick slabs of butter, and wedges of cheese.
We’d love to eat it all, but we know what will happen to our bodies if we do. Our hips will expand, our waist lines will slowly disappear, and our arteries will begin closing off. Pretty soon we’ll be buying tents and calling them clothes, and be on a first name basis with our cardiologist. We don’t want to do that, so to keep ourselves from going there we tell ourselves that all fat is bad. In fact we tell ourselves that all fat is down right evil.
Unfortunately, this is a practice that can be just as dangerous as giving in to the flavorful lure of fat in the first place. In our quest to get rid of the dangerous fat in our diet we may be getting rid of the essential fat we need to survive. Is there a difference? Yes, there is.
There are different kinds of fat, and not all of them are bad. The kind we want to stay away from are the trans and saturated fats. These can be found in meats, dairy, and many of the processed foods we eat everyday. But, there are other types of fat, mono and polyunsaturated fat, that we need in order to live long and healthy lives. In fact, these types of fat help to combat the effects that the bad fats that we have in our bodies.
Now, I’m not saying that you should go out and megadose on them. It goes back to the old saying “All in moderation”, which applies here as well. It is possible to get too much of the good fats, which can cause problems. But a balanced diet that includes sources of mono and certain polyunsaturated fats can be of significant benefit to your health.
How? First, let’s look at monounsaturated fat, which can be found in olive oil, avocados, peanut oil, nuts, and seeds.
Monounsaturated fats reduce your risk of heart disease by lowering the levels of low-density lipoproteins (LDL) in your blood as well as total cholesterol. Olive oil, especially extra virgin olive oil, is an excellent source of monounsaturated fat, and is the only food that is scientifically proven to have a direct effect on LDLs. This doesn’t mean that it’s the only one that does, simply that it’s the only one that’s been intentionally studied for it’s effects on LDLs and the other effects of the bad fats, and had a favorable outcome. Also, extra virgin olive oil contains only monounsaturated fat, while other foods may contain trace to equal amounts of other fats.
next we want to look at polyunsaturated fats. We’ve been hearing about the health benefits of Omega 3 for a long time. Did you know that this is a polyunsaturated fat? Omega 3, and other Omegas, have been proven to help reduce the risk of heart disease, increase brain function, and improve skin and hair. It’s also good for the eyes.
Of course, the best natural source for this is fish, specifically cold water fish, like herring, krill, sardines, and salmon. If you don’t like most fish, or are looking for ways to get natural sources of Omega 3 into your child’s diet, have no fear, canned tuna is also a decent source of the polyunsaturated fat Omega 3. Albacore tuna has the highest amount in that family, with the added benefit of tasting less ‘fishy’.
How much Omega 3 does a normal healthy person need? Not that much. The Mayo Clinic recommends 2-3 servings of white fish per week. If you have health problems and are worried that you might need more talk to your doctor or nutritionist before starting a supplement regimen. Some foods interfere with the absorption of Omega 3 and they should be able to advise you on this matter.
So, how can we get the essential fats that are good for us into our diets? One way is to substitute the bad fats for healthy fats. For more information on how to do that click here.
Here is a list of foods high in monounsaturated fats:
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Nuts and seeds in general
For more information on monounsaturated fats click here. You’ll be really surprised to find out what the secret sinful food in this category is!
Here are two recipes to get you started:
Mash-Up #3 (Chicken Nut Soup)
For the pressure cooker.
2 pounds your choice of boneless chicken (chopped into bite sized pieces)
1 large red, orange, or yellow bell pepper, diced
1 medium white or yellow onion, large diced
3 large cloves garlic, diced or crushed
1/4 cup roasted peanuts, crushed
1/4 cup cashews, crushed
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 cups vegetable or chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon cracked black or red pepper (optional)
Salt to taste
Combine bell pepper, onion, garlic, cashews, peanuts, and extra virgin olive oil in pressure cooker pot and cook for 5 minutes on medium heat, stirring frequently, until onions are clear. Add chicken, mix well and cook for an additional 5 minutes to sear flavors to meat. Add broth and crushed pepper, lock on lid and bring to pressure according to manufacturer’s instructions. Once at pressure reduce heat to medium-low and cook for 20 minutes. Salt to taste and serve. Feeds 5.
Dark Forest Bugs
2 cups roasted-unsalted peanuts, shelled whole
1 bag high quality dark chocolate chips (I use Ghiardelli)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Heat olive oil in a double boiler. When hot to the touch slowly add chocolate chips, mixing with wooden or plastic spoon or scraper*. Allow chips to melt and blend well with oil. Stir in peanuts.
Using small spoon, spoon out 2-3 chocolate covered peanuts at a time and allow to cool in a clump on a parchment covered cookie sheet. Work quickly to keep chocolate from spreading and separating. Once sheet is full quickly move to freezer and repeat with another sheet. Freeze for 30-60 minutes or until firm. Serve on a bed of berries and mint leaves for added flare and vitamins. Makes about 3 dozen bugs.
Mayo Clinic: http://www.mayoclinic.com