By Lauren Denos: 9/22/2014 (Nutrition)

Fat is actually good for the body, and despite what some people still think it is not necessarily what makes us fat. Fat helps our skin stay young and supple, it helps our brain function properly and can help lower our HDL among other health benefits. This however does not mean that we should go overboard with the oils and fats. As with everything, use in moderation; and not all fats are created equal.

When it comes to fats, we should choose those higher in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats while avoiding the saturated fats, trans-fats and hydrogenated oils. The top two are olive oil for dressings and other cold recipes and grape seed oil for cooking. Another good choice is non-stick grape seed oil spray when you are cooking. Your food does not stick to the pan when cooking and yet you are getting very few extra calories in your meal from excess oil, especially when your meal has plenty of fat in it already.

Coconut oil has been all the rage lately. It is a saturated fat, but it is a medium chain triglyceride, which is more water soluble and easier for the body to transport for energy use. Many people claim great health benefits from using coconut oil. Some people cook with it or add it to cold dishes and even eat it plain. It has many other uses besides cooking.

Another controversial area is animal fats. For the longest time we have been told that animal fat, which is a saturated fat, is very bad for us. Now we have some diets that encourage eating lots of this fat. Some of these diets make good points about the way our ancestors ate, and that our bodies are meant for that type of fare rather than those of the modern-age, highly processed, diets. That being said, people following these diets are eating mostly protein and vegetables. When you eat all that animal fat and combine it with the bread and sugar found in modern diets, that is where the problems surface. There are so many books out there on various ways of eating because different people work better on different diets. Is saturated fat right for you? The verdict is still out on this, but if you are a Paleo follower then your body will probably process this type of fat better than the refined diet that is so common.

Avocados are a great choice for getting fat in your diet. They are high in monounsaturated fats and low in saturated fats. They have quite an impressive profile of vitamins, minerals, and flavenoids. Avocados are wonderful because if you do eat a mainly vegetable and lean protein diet, they satisfy the palate. They are also very versatile. Everyone knows they can be used to make guacamole, and they also go great on top of sandwiches; but did you know you can make them into chocolate pudding? If you are craving some chocolate and want to do something healthier for yourself then mash up ½ an avocado with as much cocoa powder as you want (start with a couple TBSP and the work up from there) until it is as chocolaty as you want. Then, add a little bit of Stevia. Presto! You have chocolate pudding that is much more nutritious than the typical.

Lets take a look at some other oil and fat options for different levels of cooking or non-cooking:

High Heat

  • Avocado
  • Almond
  • Apricot Kernel
  • Sunflower
  • Safflower
  • Palm fruit
  • Sesame (refined)
  • Canola

Medium-High Heat

  • Grape seed
  • Walnut
  • Coconut
  • Soy
  • Canola

Medium Heat

  • Sesame
  • Toasted sesame
  • Peanut
  • Olive
  • Coconut (unrefined)
  • Corn

No Heat (salads or stand alone for health benefits)

  • Borage
  • Evening primrose
  • Flax seed
  • Wheat germ
  • Fish oil

The categories above give you examples of the types of oils that can be used in each category of cooking. That does not necessarily mean that they are all the best oils to use, in fact whether many oils are good or bad is such a controversy now. Using any of the oils in moderation is the best course of action.

If you are currently not getting enough fat in your diet then add avocado into some of your meals. It is a delicious and highly nutritious way to get the fat you need. Adding fish oil into the diet is a good idea since it not only supplies very bio available fats but also helps fight inflammation, and many people actually have some sort of inflammation going in whether they pay attention to it or not. Don't shy away from the fats; just choose healthier forms of them. Your body needs it!





 

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-Lauren