The Search for Happy, Healthy Fats
Phew, the holidays are officially over and I’m in search of healthy fat. I ate too much of foods that leave me feeling out of balance. With so much else going on, I found it hard to prepare healthy food for myself ahead of time and often ate what was available instead. That meant that I ate too many carbs and not enough clean fat. especially when sugary treats were omnipresent. But Holiday time is winter and our bodies naturally want to pack on insulation against colder temperatures so eating fat is actually easier now than in the summer. The trick is to make it clean.
That means, read labels. Above all, you want to steer away from hydrogenated oils. The hydrogenation process mixes water with the oil so it won’t spoil. This is great for shelf life, but terrible for your digestive system. Oil and water naturally separate but hydrogenation turns unsaturated fat into saturated/hardened fat, which your body has a harder time breaking down. I also recommend steering clear of cottonseed oil, palm kernel oil, peanut oil, corn oil, canola oil, and others with a high omega-6 content. Often it’s not the oil itself that is so bad but how it is processed to increase shelf life that makes it unhealthy.
Not all fat is bad
In the 1980s, studies came out warning about the dangers of eating too much fat. Margarine replaced butter in American refrigerators and “low-fat” became the selling point that “gluten free” is today. But new research is showing that some fats are critical for good health, while others really are harmful. Examples of “good fats” are plant-sourced oil that is minimally processed, fish oil from non-polluted areas.. Fat from an animal that has been free-range or grass-fed without antibiotics and hormones is also probably clean. That’s the kind of fat our bodies have evolved to eat. We have learned many new ways to manipulate food to extend its shelf life but our bodies haven’t kept up with this rate of change.
Food without fat may not be satisfying because fat signals your body that it’s had enough. The Thai restaurants I like serve food with almost no fat in it because that’s what the clientele demands; and they add sugar to make up for it. I got some “all-natural, minimally processed, nitrate/ite-free” gourmet turkey jerky in my Christmas stocking. The first two ingredients are turkey and brown sugar. If the second ingredient was fat instead of sugar, it would be a satisfying snack. As it is, it’s not satisfying and it spurs me to eat more. I poured some flax oil on it and that made it satisfying.
Look for healthy fat
It’s that way across the “healthy eating” board. The free-range, organic chicken breasts I bought at Costco came with the skin (fat) removed! When an animal is fed genetically modified grain, hormones and other unnatural junk, the toxins get stored in its fat. So, eating that fat is unhealthy. But if an animal eats a clean diet and is relatively stress-free (living conditions are part of the health equation, for all of us) then we can expect its fat to be clean as well. I am actively looking to increase the clean fat in my diet, whether from plant or animal sources.
Here’s a quick-fix I’m trying to help with that: carry olive oil (ExtraVirginOO) in a small bottle so I can add fat to those ubiquitous low-fat foods that don’t quite satisfy. I’m starting to feel like a new mom with a diaper bag as I carry my water structuring device, quart bottle of water, and my olive oil bottle around with me everywhere. But it works! Btw, I like the taste and feel of flax oil even better than olive oil, but it seems to be more delicate (needs refrigeration/goes rancid easier) and it’s more expensive, so I compromise. I add flax oil at home and olive oil when out and about. I’m trying out different containers to find one that is light weight and doesn’t leak.
Cultural trends favor different body types
I researched the shift to low-fat eating happened and got an inception date of 1977. That’s when cholesterol studies came out telling us that butter (animal fat) was bad, margarine was good, and that we had to cut fat from our diets, period. Drug companies were quick to create a whole new market for cholesterol drugs and they made millions of dollars with them. (See Grain Brain for more info about that debacle.) I remember giving away my Greens Cookbook (definitive, gourmet, vegetarian) shaking my head at how much oil was called for in each recipe. But I also remember how the standard for beauty in the 70s was tall, lanky women with small breasts and protruding hipbones.
In the 90s, “The Look” shifted from the tall, thin, ectomorphic pole to the muscular, stocky mesomorphic pole. Picture gymnast Mary Lou Retton muscling out Nadia Comaneci. As obesity and breast implants each became more common at the turn of the 21st century, the yardstick for beauty shifted yet again – this time toward the fleshy, endomorphic pole. It’s great that the social stigma to being fleshy may be less now, and our bodies deserve love, no matter what! But living in a heavy, overweight body isn’t comfortable or healthy.
Healthy fat is better than no fat
As I poked around for more information on healthy fat, I clicked to TrimDownClub.com and audited a long infomercial because I wanted to hear what they chose as The 5 Foods to Never Eat. (I ignored the split infinitive.) If you know nothing about nutrition, or particularly enjoy learning aurally and like mom reading you bedtime stories, I recommend this video. If not, let me spare you the time and give you the five foods they warn you not to eat:
Concentrated fruit juice, especially orange juice (= sugar water)
Margarine (it’s not food)
Whole wheat bread (gluten, processing)
Processed soy (processing takes out nutrients and unbalances it)
Corn (genetically modified; GM corn is specifically modified to fatten cattle quickly)
Seriously, if you don’t know why you shouldn’t eat those foods, finish reading here and spend the roughly 50 minutes** to listen to the infomercial. I also recommend the one-time, $47 membership fee if you want the nutritional education, menu ideas and support that comes with it. (They try to sell you other stuff as well, but the basic info is sound.)
The information you need to eat well and be healthy is abundantly available, but it takes time to educate yourself and weed through the blah, blah that often comes with it (case in point, TrimDownClub.) My goal here is to share what I am learning about sugar, healthy fat, water, emotion, etc. Health on all levels is my passion and I want to help people achieve their highest wellness.
Happy New Year to you and yours!
May this new year be healthy, abundant and full of laughter for all of us. 😉
You might like this article about buttered coffee