In this day and age, where processed and convenience food is the go-to for many busy people and families, critical nutrition is being kicked to the curb. One of these nutrients, a macronutrient, is fat.
It's not breaking news that fat has been demonized for decades. It became crystal clear in the '80s with the rise of fat-free cookies, cakes, half and half, cheese, butter... Butter? Really? Butter = fat, and now they've made a fat-free, butter-like-food. Truth alert: Yes, I bought into this fat-free craze like crazy! I was the queen bee of all things fat-free and even refused any dressing on my salads, always opting for straight-up balsamic vinegar. Good thing I got my common sense back before major damage was done.
Let's take a step back. We humans sustain ourselves on three macronutrients. Macro, meaning big. The three big nutrients we need for our bodies are: Carbohydrates, fat and protein. When we short-change our bodies from one of these macronutrients, we will have to pay up later with poor or failing health. This is a fact that we cannot escape. So what is a smart and educated person to do? We can't really gorge ourselves on the fatty foods we know taste delicious, and yet we need it for a healthy body.
Our bodies require fat for many reasons. Here are the top three:
1. To absorb and assimilate fat soluble vitamins: A, D, E, and K. Translation? If you're eating a fat-free or too low-fat diet, your body is not absorbing those vitamins, especially the all important and more popular than ever, Vitamin D.
2. To boost the liver's function of releasing fat. Yes, we need fat to burn fat. It's the proper type of fat that matters. More on that in a bit.
3. Fat helps food taste good. If you are eating a diet with little or no fat, you're undoubtedly feeling a bit deprived. And what happens when you feel deprived after eating a meal? You want to eat more. This is quite an issue and the main reason why we have a weight problem in this country. People are simply eating too much.
Here's where the good news comes in. You don't have to deprive yourself of fat in the name of being healthy. You just have to know what fat to eat and what fat to bid adieu to.
Make it a priority to add these fats to your daily meals. The amount you should add completely depends on your personal needs and goals:
Avocado -- Yes, you can mash it up with lime juice, salt and cilantro to make guacamole. You can also add it to your smoothies for a super-creamy consistency and the vitamin absorption boost.
Wild Alaskan Salmon -- This fish is still the favorite amongst most for the essential omega-3 fatty acids it provides. In addition, salmon is a great source of naturally-occurring vitamin B12. My personal favorites are Sockeye, Coho and King, all from Alaska. Check out Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch's thorough summary of salmon. The ones to avoid, best choice and good alternative.
Seeds -- Think sunflower, pumpkin, sesame, and my favorite, hemp seeds. Keep them in jars in your fridge and sprinkle them on salads, soups, oatmeal, or use them in smoothies.
Nuts -- These gifts from nature are an excellent way to get the good fat in, every day. With so many available, from almonds to pine nuts, to macadamia nuts, you'll never get bored of nuts. The best way to consume them to maximize the benefits is raw and unsalted. Purchase them from the bulk bins at your favorite health food store. The bulk bins are generally replenished frequently, so your know your nuts are fresh.
Coconut -- With its fat coming from medium chain fatty acids (MCFAs), this fruit's fat will provide you with energy. The unique property of MCFAs is they are more rapidly absorbed by the body and quickly metabolized as fuel. Translation? Your body uses this fat for energy rather than storing it as fat.
Fats to avoid: denatured oils, like hydrogenated, partially hydrogenated and non-hydrogenated oils. Canola oil, it's most likely GMO (genetically modified organism) and not beneficial. Soy, corn, cottonseed, and other vegetable oils that are not cold pressed.
Remember, your body needs fat. If you keep it out of your diet for too long, you will become depleted in the essential micro nutrients and you'll open the door to disease -- whatever you are most susceptible to.
Eat fat. Just choose the right one.
Follow Tania Hayek Mercer on Twitter: www.twitter.com/taniamercer