Eating healthy fats doesn’t have to be hard, but you do need to pay attention. You also need to pay attention to how you cook with fats. This is a quick guide on how to eat and cook using healthy fats!
When making changes to your nutrition, it isn’t just food selection that is important, it is important to think about how you’re preparing your meals as well. Maybe a no-brainer to think about, but maybe not.
Client: Can I use the steamable bags of broccoli?
Me: Yes, of course!
Fast forward to her next check-in where I asked about if she liked the steamed broccoli…
Client: Yes! And that cheese sauce with it is so delicious!
First thing to note is the serving size: one serving from this bag is ½ cup, therefore only ½ serving of vegetables. To get one full serving of vegetables at any given meal using this product, you would consume one full cup of vegetables, and double all of the numbers shown here. These are some of the obvious red flags on this label/product:
- Sodium (amount per serving, not the fact there is sodium present)
- Soy Bean Oil
- Modified Corn Starch (Another Name for Sugar)
- “Natural Flavor” (if it was natural, it would just be the flavor of the food, not an additive)
For the remainder of this blog post, I want to focus on one type of ingredient found on the label though, and that is fats – soy bean oil is what I’m looking at here!
I’ll give a quick reference for which fats to consume more of, how to incorporate them, and what temperatures/situations to use them.
Let’s get started.
I want to start off by saying that fats are not the enemy … it is choosing the wrong (bad) types of fat that gets so many people in trouble. Fats are actually a necessary component of your diet! Fats help the body function properly by providing energy, aiding in the building of cell membranes, vitamin and mineral absorption by the body, inflammatory response, and a lot more … including body fat loss.
That’s right … eating fats to lose fat. Mind blowing, right?
Let’s quickly tackle the categories of what a bad fat is vs what a good fat is to help keep us focused on our goals for this blog.
The most well-known bad fat is trans fats. Do you know what it is? It is when a healthy liquid oil is turned into a solid fat through a process called hydrogenation. Spooky word: hydrogenation. This chemical reaction takes place in a lab, not naturally occurring, and it becomes a solid by adding hydrogen atoms to the carbon chain. With the fat as a solid, it now increases its shelf-life and uses. You will see these in fried foods, cakes, cookies, crackers, cereal, etc.
Me: *eyes widened* Did you say cheese sauce?
Client: *eyes also widened* Yeah, is the cheese not okay?
Me: No … and I proceeded to explain why, and also made a mental note to clarify on this type of thing in the future.
The nutrition label shown here provides some basic reasoning.
Check your ingredient labels. You’ll typically see it hidden as “partially hydrogenated oil” or “vegetable shortening”. Even if it has those listed, the label may still list 0 trans fats because of a loophole in government regulations. If there is 0.5 grams or less per serving, the FDA currently allows the label to claim 0 trans fat.
Read that again: if there is 0.5 grams or less per serving, the FDA currently allows the label to claim 0 trans fat.
Jump back to the label example … if there were trans fats present in the product ingredients list, and I chose to consume the entire package (for easy math, let’s pretend there are 10 servings in this product), I could have consumed 5 grams of trans fat – without knowing it – in addition to the other fats in the product.
In June 2015, there was a ruling by the FDA that food companies would have to remove trans fats from food by 2018 since partially hydrogenated oils had been removed from the generally recognized as safe (GRAS) list. I would keep a lookout on your labels since this has not been enforced as of yet … and also recognize that the food industry is very VERY tricky and also powerful when it comes to government.
Saturated fats, while not as bad as trans fats, need to be monitored. Saturated fats just describe how “saturated” the carbon atoms are with hydrogen atoms. These fats mostly come from red meats, whole milk, cheese, coconut oil, etc. These fats are also solid at room temperature.
Does that mean you need to eliminate these products? No. Your diet should not primarily consist of these things though. In fact, it is recommended that these be kept to 10% or less of daily calorie intake. We will be revisiting the coconut oil in particular later.
Good fats still have hydrogen atoms saturating the carbon atoms, but it is fewer than that of saturated fats. These healthy fats are liquid at room temperature, not solid like saturated fats and trans fats. These good fats come from nuts, seeds, fish, seafood and vegetables.
When talking about healthy fats, the terms monounsaturated and polyunsaturated are used to help distinguish what kind of healthy fat is being consumed.
Monounsaturated fats have a single carbon-to-carbon double bond so it has two fewer hydrogen atoms than saturated fats. Monounsaturated fats include the following: olive oil, peanut oil, canola oil, avocados, sunflower oil and most nuts.
Polyunsaturated fats have two or more double bonds in its carbon chain. They are one of the most important because they are essential fats. Remember when I said fats are important for your body to function? Well here we are at essential fats – meaning your body does not make them, you MUST get them through your food. Sounds pretty important to me!
Polyunsaturated fats can be categorized by omega-3 fatty acids and omega-6 fatty acids. The three and six refer to where the first double bond on the carbon chain exists. These both offer a lot of health benefits, including the anti-inflammatory properties of the omega-3s and the inflammatory properties of the omega-6s. The body needs both!
Good examples of where to find omega-3s include salmon, black cod, mackerel, flaxseed, walnuts, canola oil.
Good examples of where to find omega-6s include seeds and nuts. I provide a more elaborate list below of healthy things to pick for your Omega-6s.
We typically need more omega-3s in our diet, than omega-6s. The research is a little conflicting on exact ratio, but a 2-3:1 ratio is a good place to start due to the high inflammation occurring in many people’s bodies
WHAT TO EAT
There are a lot of foods to be consuming to help incorporate healthy fats into your life. I have sifted it down a little bit, and for the sake of having a list to easily reference, I wrote them below. This is not an all-inclusive list, but it certainly gets you started!