Fat is your friend!
Well, it can be.
Diet-culture depicts fat as “the bad guy.” But this is not always the case! We humans, after all, are fleshy beings. We are meant to have a little roll here, a little squishiness there. The cushiness of our bodies is one sign of an incredibly complex system that asks for our appreciation, acceptance, and reverence.
Fats are your body’s friend because they:
-Nourish skin, hair, and nails
-Help absorb fat-soluble vitamins like A, E, D and K
-Maintain a steady metabolism
-Cushion and protect organs
-Insulate the body
Oo yeah - gimme some of that!
But not all fats are created equal.
Fats can be divided into three categories:
Trans Fat: lowest quality fat
Saturated Fat: healthier than trans fat, but needs to be kept in check
Unsaturated Fat: healthiest of ze fats.
So where exactly are each of these fat friends livin’? Check it out:
1. Trans fats.
As I said above, fats can be your friend, but this guy is more like your foe. You want to watch for where its hiding and make sure you limit your intake of trans fats. They’re livin’ in a lot of packaged foods (to name a few: frozen pizzas, potato chips, donuts, some breakfast cereals). Most are man-made to make foods more flavorful and increase shelf life (i.e. they’re not natural). Because of this, trans-fats have been shown to lead to accelerated aging, heart disease, and cancer.
Again, not your friend.
Also beware: these trans-fats are tricksters. You’ll come across many packaged foods labeled, “0 grams trans fat,” but don’t get too excited. Even when a package has this label, it can legally contain up to 0.5 g of trans fat per serving. Wowza! So trans-fat isn’t the most truthful little sucker there ever was.
One way to maneuver around trans-fat’s trickery is to read the food labels and look for the phrase “partially hydrogenated oils” (trans fats’ alternative name).
2. Saturated Fat.
A better friend than trans fat, but you still want to set healthy boundaries.
It's like when you may need your own space after spending a lot of time with a friend. Take that into consideration here. Too much saturated fat has been shown to spike cholesterol levels and lead to the formation of blockages in arteries throughout the body. So just keep your time with this fella in check, ya?
Saturated Fat lives in meats, dairy, some baked goods, fried foods, and palm-based oils such as palm kernel, palm oil, and coconut oil.* These fats are generally solid at room temperature and need to be balanced in your body.
*Hold your horses: coconut oil causes a bit of debate, especially due to the recent claim by Harvard Professor, Karin Michels, that "coconut oil is poison". Other researchers claim it is perfectly safe in balanced amounts. Read more here.
Coconut oil is a saturated fat that marches to the beat of a different drum.
You see, as opposed to the typical long-chain fatty acids found in meat and vegetable oils, coconut oil is made up of medium-chain fatty acids (aka MCFAs). These fats have a different effect on the body because of their shorter chain that allows them to travel straight to the liver where they are metabolized and turned into energy. This makes them available to be used as fuel right away which means they are less likely to be stored as fat. As a result, MCFAs do not cause an insulin spike in your bloodstream which decreases the likelihood of a blood sugar high followed by a crash. Woot!
Basically if you’re including more coconut oil in your lifestyle, it can be good to reduce the amount of other saturated fats you consume to keep a healthy balance in your body.
3) Unsaturated Fat.
Your best friend. These fats help you out by improving blood cholesterol levels and decreasing inflammation. They often live in natural foods. Rock on!
Unsaturated Fat divides its time between two categories: Monounsaturated and Polyunsaturated Fats.
Monounsaturated fats live in peanut, canola, and olive oils, avocados, as well as nuts and seeds (e.g. pumpkin and sesame). You’ll often see them in liquid form at room temperature.
This also goes for Polyunsaturated Fats, but these fatty friends are found in places like sunflower, corn, soybean, and flaxseed oils, walnuts, flax seeds, fish like salmon, mackerel, herring, albacore tuna, and trout.
Ho yeah! Lots of places to hang out with this crew.
When healthy fats become your friend, it’s really easy to make time for them. They can become a simple addition to your snacks or meals:
-Top a salad with your favorite nuts or seeds
-Add sliced avocado to your toast, a sandwich, or a salad
-Blend flax seeds into your smoothie
Here is a fatty-treat I occasionally make to kick-start my day (and it's made with the debated coconut oil). Everything in moderation, right? Enjoy!
When I’m looking for a little decadence in the morning, I create this concoction. It is so silky smooth and gives me a sense of balanced energy. If you are not a coffee drinker, this process can also be applied to tea (simply substitute a cup of your favorite brewed tea in place of coffee).
Coconut oil in your coffee can:
-curb your appetite and cravings
-give you an energy boost
-keep blood sugar balanced
*Note: Though there is debate around coconut oil, I find it makes my body feel healthy, balanced, and energized. (Again, remember to keep saturated fats balanced. I am plant-based so I don’t consume the saturated fats found in meats or dairy. If you're consuming saturated fats elsewhere in your lifestyle, you may want to limit them when adding more coconut oil into your meals).
1 tsp coconut oil
1-2 small pieces of cacao butter
1 cup of brewed coffee
1 tsp local farm honey or agave (optional. My local favorite is Buckin’ Bee Honey at the Santa Fe Farmers’ Market. If you’re living the life somewhere else, take a peek at your farmers’ market to find your new favorite local beekeeper!).
Place all ingredients together into a blender.
Blend until smooth.
Pour into your favorite coffee mug. Admire the beautiful foam and enjoy the deliciously silky texture!