Don’t fear the fat

This week in my series of learnings from my Costa Rica retreat, I’ll share some quick insights into heart health and why we don’t need to fear the fat!

More than 1.37 million Canadians have heart disease and it’s one of the leading causes of death in Canada.

We’ve been led to believe fat and cholesterol are two of the main contributors. When in reality science now shows, they may both actually be good for us!

Back in the ’80s and ’90s during the fat-free, low-fat marketing frenzy, we were told to eat less fat and we’d be slim, trim and prevent heart disease. Well clearly that didn’t work. Without the fat in our diets we turned to high carbohydrate foods packed with sugar and calories and gained more weight than ever!

Today we know that it’s more about eating the right fats rather than eating less fat, and I’d like to add that it’s also about how we cook with fats.

Everyone agrees that “trans fats” the commercially modified synthetic fats found only in processed foods are harmful and linked to a number of health conditions.

The beneficial ones are unsaturated fats in foods like olive oil and avocados, the saturated fat in coconut and palm oil, and the omega-3s found in sardines and walnuts.

Our bodies thrive when we have the high quality fats and this includes cholesterol. Every single one of our 100 trillion cells is constructed by the high-quality fat we eat. It’s really fat not carbohydrates that fuel our metabolism. And fat is one of of the main nutrients that feeds our brain. Cholesterol is produced by the liver, is used in thousands of our bodily processes and without it, we’d die. It’s not the scary demon we once thought it was.

The biggest concern these days is whether fat becomes oxidized and toxic in our systems. Oxidization is when foods deteriorate during a chemical process and can lead to free radicals, other inflammatory damage and can be one of the first signs of heart disease.

What are some ways we can get more of the good fats in and keep the bad fats out? Here are my fat friendly tips:

Coconut Products – Dried coconut, fresh coconut and coconut oil are all great sources of saturated fats and can be enjoyed on a regular basis.

Avocado – These nutrient powerhouses are full of fibre, potassium, antioxidants and heart healthy fats (monounsaturated oleic acid).

Butter – Most of us grew up avoiding butter like the plague, but it is a great source of good quality saturated fat. Try to get grass-fed organic butter.

Small Oily fish – Are a great source of omega 3 fats. Look for sardines and herring or try a good quality fish oil with a balanced ratio of DHA and EPA.

Nuts and Seeds – Full of vitamins, minerals, and heart healthy fats, nuts and seeds are a great snack food. Go for the unsalted and raw (non-roasted).

Olive oil – If you’ve made the switch from other vegetable oils to olive oil, that’s awesome. Just be careful how you use it. Heating olive oil causes oxidization which is very toxic and damaging to the body. Use if for dressing your food once its cooked.

Eggs – These nutrient-dense gems have been given a bad rap over the years due to their fat content and concern they raised cholesterol. If you cook them right eggs are an awesome source of protein and good fat. Make sure to keep the yolks soft, gooey or slightly gelled. You don’t want that hard crumbly texture that means oxidization is present.

Dairy – If you use dairy, go for the full fat version from a good grass-fed source. What happens in the production of low fat dairy products, is the fat is spun off, becomes oxidized, and is added back in. Oxidization = harmful. Stay away!

Start considering a few of these shifts in your daily routine to keep your heart healthy and pumping for years to come.

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