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Eat fat, get lean

September 13th, 2011 | no comments

healthy fatYou can’t live fat-free. Your body and brain require fat to survive! Besides, fat is NOT the enemy…if you’re choosing the right kind.

The other day, I watched a woman at a restaurant turn her nose up at a perfectly healthy spinach salad because it had walnuts in it. “It’s too fatty”, she said. I wanted to say: “Are you kidding me? Walnuts are one of the healthiest foods you can find!” I refrained from going over to her table and giving her a nutrition lesson, but I must admit it made me a bit sad to watch her deny her body of such a good food, all because of fat.

Eating a balanced diet (with small amounts of smart, healthy fat), not only protects your heart, but also helps you eat less! This is especially important for successful, long-term weight control. To prove my point, try eating a handful of dried fruit (like raisins or apricots) by itself. Not very satisfying is it? Now, try mixing some peanuts, walnuts or almonds with that dried fruit and see how you feel. My guess is that you’ll actually feel like you ate something! That’s because fat slows digestion, so it keeps your hunger at bay a little while longer and you end up eating fewer calories overall.

Where did the fat-fearing restaurant patron go wrong? She wasn’t looking at the type of fat in the walnut, and that’s key because not all fats are created equal. Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are “smart fats” . Both lower your total and LDL cholesterol and promote healthy blood flow to your heart and brain. Nuts get a special mention because they’re a good source of both mono and polyunsaturated fats and vitamin E. Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that protects your memory.

According to the American Heart Association, omega-3 fatty acids benefit the hearts of healthy people, and those at high risk of — or who have — cardiovascular disease. They are the building blocks of your brain cells and are considered essential fatty acids. Because your body can’t make them, you have no choice but to get them from food. Fish have the most “user-friendly” omega 3 fatty acids (in the form of DHA and EPA), but if you don’t like it you can still benefit from non-seafood sources of omega 3’s (in the form of ALA) like walnuts.

“SMART FATS”:

  • Monounsaturated fats: Avocados, canola oil, nuts, olive oil, olives, peanut oil, seeds and sunflower oil

  • Polyunsaturated fats: Corn oil, most nuts and seeds, safflower oil, omega 3 fatty acids (DHA/EPA rich: herring, mackerel, salmon, sardines, trout, tuna; ALA-rich: canola, flaxseed and soybean oils, chia seeds, flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds, soybeans, tofu, walnuts, omega 3 fatty acid-enriched eggs)

Remember not all fats are created equal, so choose any of the “smart fats” from above, but just be sure to keep your portions in check. Too much of even a good thing can wreck havoc on your waistline. One portion of healthy fat is equal to:

  • 1 teaspoon of oil
  • 1/2 oz of nuts or seeds
  • 1 tablespoon of nut butter
  • 1/2 medium avocado
  • 8 large olives
  • 3 ounces of fatty fish

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