Think all fat is bad for you? Here’s everything you need to know about dietary fat, including how to choose healthy fats and the power of omega-3s. Fat is a type of nutrient, and just like protein and carbohydrates, your body needs some fat for energy, to absorb vitamins, and to protect your heart and brain health. For years we’ve been told that eating fat will add inches to your waistline, raise cholesterol, and cause a myriad of health problems. But now we know that not all fat is the same.
“Bad” fats, such as artificial trans fats and saturated fats, are guilty of the unhealthy things all fats have been blamed for—weight gain, clogged arteries, an increased risk of certain diseases, and so forth. But healthy fats such as unsaturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids have the opposite effect. In fact, healthy fats play a huge role in helping you manage your moods, stay on top of your mental game, fight fatigue, and even control your weight.
Here are the five healthy fats
Avocados are a fruit but contain almost no sugar at all; they are also high in B vitamins, magnesium, and especially monounsaturated fats. Monounsaturated fats promote a healthy brain, healthy heart and a smaller waistline. Try them in sandwiches or salads or make guacamole. Along with being loaded with heart- and brain-healthy fats, they make for a filling meal. Eat half to one whole avocado on a salad or even for breakfast. If you’re not used to eating avocado, there are some great recipes out there!
Coconut oil is commonly used in a ketogenic diet, but I like coconut butter better. For one, it tastes like a rich buttery piece of white chocolate, but has no sugar at all. Coconut butter is the whole coconut meat that is pureed into a buttery spread. It is high in MCT (saturated) fats which are one of the best fats for triggering ketosis in the body and helping your body use fat for fuel. Coconut butter is also rich in fiber, potassium and very low in carbs. I prefer coconut’s saturated fats to dairy-based animal sources of saturated fats.
The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension diet–known at the DASH diet–is an eating program that was developed through research sponsored by the U.S. National Institute of Health (NIH) that is aimed at reducing blood pressure and cholesterol. It includes eating fruits and vegetables, low-fat or non-fat dairy, nuts (including walnuts), and whole grains. It includes high fiber and low to moderate fat, and is rich in potassium, calcium and magnesium. Recent DASH studies have shown benefits of lowering sodium intake on blood pressure. Not only have studies shown that eating walnuts is associated with improved blood pressure and cholesterol levels, walnuts are naturally sodium-free and thus are a perfect food for those following the DASH diet guidelines.
Flax (and chia)
These two seeds provide healthy fats and fiber at the same time. Fiber is important on a ketogenic diet. Many high-fat diets can cause constipation because they’re so low in carbohydrates. Flax and chia are the perfect options because all of their carbs come from fiber. Fiber does not raise blood sugar, nor does it get stored in the body like other carbs (glucose and starch). Fiber actually lowers blood sugar, which is beneficial to the brain. Flax and chia are also high in omega-3 fats for those who don’t eat fish.
Brazil nuts are lower in carbs than all other nuts. Just one may satisfy your carb cravings because these nuts are so high in selenium, B vitamins, healthy fats and magnesium. These nutrients lower cravings, promote a healthy mood, and even help with focus and weight loss.
Tips for sugar and gluten-free success:
When you’re trying to wean yourself off sugar, gluten and refined carbohydrates, it’s important to focus on eating the many wonderful foods that support satiety and balance blood sugar. This is absolutely crucial because if your blood sugar is unstable, your hormones will be out of whack and no amount of motivation or willpower will help. Sugar and gluten are both drugs in the sense that they trigger opiate release from the brain causing a physical dependence. In the meantime, they wreak havoc on both the villi and bacteria in the gut that support brain health, not to mention digestive health.
It is important to remember that sugar, gluten and refined foods provide no benefits to our health. We can obtain everything we need without them. Focus on including healthy, anti-inflammatory fats along with green vegetables at every single meal to lower insulin and sugar cravings. These also heal the gut and promote a regular digestive system while nourishing good bacteria in the gut, which are responsible for a healthy brain.