• Mandy Raff

Eat Your Way to Better Health - Tip 5 - Eat Healthy Fats

I have a friend who's a naturopath who will be cheering when she sees this tip. I have a distinct memory of her scolding me during my weight loss process as she felt I wasn’t consuming enough healthy fats. And she was right.

But isn’t fat the enemy of the dieter? Well, it certainly has been seen as that in the past. For most of my adult life the low-fat propaganda has been prolific. To be fair, it started out as a reaction to the way we’d previously cooked and prepared meals (with lots of oils and large quantities of fatty meats), and to science linking this with the prevalence of heart disease. Food manufacturers quickly joined the low-fat revolution and produced low-fat versions of pretty much everything. That interesting word ‘lite’ became commonplace on food packaging. Unfortunately many of the low-fat options were (and still are) filled with extra salt and sugar to enhance their taste, causing a whole raft of other problems. And we now know that not all fats are created equal, and that our body does indeed need healthy fats.

So what are healthy or ‘good’ fats? The good ones are mostly the unsaturated kind. Monounsaturated fats are the healthiest of all. They can help reduce LDL cholesterol and the risk of cardiovascular disease, and can decrease the risk of type 2 diabetes by regulating insulin and blood sugar levels. Monounsaturated fats are also anti-inflammatory and full of healthy nutrients. Foods containing high levels of monounsaturated fats are avocados and avocado oil; olives and olive oil; and nuts, nut butters and nut oils. Polyunsaturated fats can also be healthy, particularly omega-3 fatty acids which are essential for brain function, cell growth and heart health. These are found mostly in fish, algae, nuts and seeds. (Flax seed is a great source of omega-3 and is also fantastic for hormone and digestive health. You can read more about this in a previous blog post I’ve written here.)

Saturated fats are what we would generally recognize as being ‘bad’ fats, however, saturated fats are definitely not created equal. The operative word here is ‘created’, because some saturated fats occur naturally, while other fats are artificially manipulated into a saturated state through a man-made process called hydrogenation. The medical and scientific communities recommend that hydrogenated vegetable and seed oils (otherwise known as trans fats) should definitely be avoided. Naturally occurring saturated fats may in fact not be as ‘bad’ as once thought however. Animal fats from grass-fed sources, and the saturated fats in dairy products, are now considered to be good for us if eaten in moderation. We've become aware that we should eat smaller portions of animal protein anyway - palm size at most - and doing this helps keep the amount of animal fat we consume in check.

Another naturally occurring saturated fat that is now credited with a raft of health benefits is coconut oil. Coconut oil is high in lauric acid and medium-chain fatty acids, which are apparently very good for us. Although there’s conflicting information out there about coconut oil (and pretty much any other ‘health’ food) it’s become one of the wonder foods of the past few years. I'm definitely a believer in its magic. I use organic virgin coconut oil to cook with, and I also use it directly on my skin and hair as a moisturizer.

A better definition of ‘healthy fat’ might be ‘relatively unprocessed fats from whole foods’. If you’re thinking cooking oils, anything that is minimally processed and from organic plant sources is best - extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, almond oil, sesame oil, flaxseed oil, hemp oil, and so on. Unfortunately a lot of the cheap over-processed cooking oils available in our supermarkets are not great choices. These are probably also used in the cooking of many fried takeaway foods.

Fats have a powerful effect within the body. We need adequate fat to support our metabolism, cell growth, the health of various body tissues, immunity, hormone production, and the absorption of many nutrients (such as vitamins A and D). Healthy fats have been shown to offer protection against chronic diseases and even improve mental health. Having healthy fats in your diet means you’ll be more likely to fuel your brain on fat - the superior brain food. It certainly helps eliminate ‘brain fog’ for me. Having enough fat will help keep you feeling full between meals, and can help moderate blood sugar levels so you're not tempted to reach for sugary foods.

Consuming and using more healthy fats also healed my fingernails! I had been a chronic nail-biter for most of my life, and I put the poor health of my nails down to this. They were weak, super soft and always split through the layers. Even when I tried to grow them, they broke and peeled. I tried lots of chemical fixes over the years – the kind you buy from a chemist and paint on your nails to magically make them strong. (Eeeeek!) Nothing like this ever worked for me. Then when I started adding more healthy oils into my diet, they began to improve. Because I had those good oils in the house, I also massaged almond oil into my nails every day. Honestly, I was shocked at the results and at how quickly my nails stopped peeling, hardened and grew long.

The main takeaway from this tip (not the deep-fried kind lol) is to include healthy fats in your diet. Eat more avocados, nuts, and seeds. Use quality oils. Don’t freak out about the calorie count, but don’t overeat them either. Moderation is the key. Your body and brain will thank you!

This is my last tip for finding and maintaining your natural weight, but in my next blog I'll talk about how to pull all of the information I've given you together, to eat your way to better health. Sign up to my mailing list now and you'll receive it soon. If you're already on my mailing list, you're sorted.

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If you missed the start of this blog series, you can find my other tips here.

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(Please note, the content of this blog is based on personal experience and is for informational purposes only. It’s not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your doctor or other qualified health care provider for any questions you have regarding a medical condition, and before undertaking any diet, dietary supplement, exercise, or other health program.)

#healthyeating #nutrition #womenshealth #goodfats #oilsaintoils