Thursday, March 10, 2011

Tip Eight: Eat Your Fat

The news on fat is confusing. We're supposed to cut down on "unhealthy" fats, but "healthy" fats are ok.

In the "fat is good" category we hear that fat is necessary as a source of energy, crucial in the absorption of vitamins and body and brain development. (National Institutes of Health) In the "fat is bad" category, we hear that fat can make you fat, and saturated fat in particular can increase cancer and provoke heart disease. There has been stunningly little actual scientific backup to this, and in fact, historically, reducing fat in the American diet via prior Dietary Guidelines has correlated with Americans becoming fatter and more unhealthy. Studies such as the long-running Framingham Heart Study find no correlation between dietary fat and heart disease, similarly between dietary cholesterol and higher cholesterol.

To further complicate the matter, all fat is not created equal (except in calories -- a tablespoon of fat equals about 100 calories, be it butter or olive oil). Saturated fat, from meat and dairy products, solidifies when cold and is tainted with artery-clogging charges: the new US Dietary Guidelines recommend limiting intake to 7 percent of daily fat allowance. A 2010 Harvard study shows that by 19 percent, one of the few.replacing saturated fat with mono- or polyunsaturated fat  decreased risk of coronary heart disease. Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, from olive oil, avocados, nuts, seeds such as flaxseed and fatty fishes, are liquid even at low temperatures. 

The really bad boy of fat is the Trans Fat, man-manipulated partially hydrogenated fatty acids that are estimated to be 70 percent of the fats that America eats -- mostly in fast food. Studies in the New England Journal of Medicine, among others, show trans fat consumption to increase risk of coronary heart disease; a recent Spanish study linked increased trans fat consumption (the average Spaniard partakes of .04 percent trans fats in a daily diet, the average in America is 2.5 percent) to depression. Trans fats do occur sparingly in red meat and dairy, but don't seem to be harmful like the engineered variety.

The bottom line: eat fat. Not too much. Make it from natural sources. But not too little; reducing fat intake can lead to lethargy, dull skin and weight gain.

Everyone has their own threshold -- you alone can gauge yours. I eat cashews by the handful, and add toasted walnuts and pine nuts to salads and wilted greens. I fry eggs in a little butter or coconut oil (1/2 teaspoon), add avocados to salads and smoothies, try to make fish twice a week. While I don't use olive oil to saute (I'll get into smoke points and healthy cooking with oils in the future) -- I do use it to thicken salad dressings, and coat vegetables to be braised or roasted at low temps. I love to add flax seed oil to cilantro and walnuts for a dressing. We eat full fat local dairy products, but not to excess. Find your balance.

Just make sure it's real food.

Roasted Cashews

1/2 lb. raw cashews
spray can of grapeseed oil
sea salt
rosemary or other dried herb, optional

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Spray a baking sheet with oil, spread cashews out and mist again with the grapeseed oil. Roast at 350 degrees for 12 minutes. Cashews will be golden brown, darker where they lay on the baking sheet. Pull from oven and sprinkle with sea salt and herb, if desired. Toss on baking sheet and allow to cool before eating to regain their crunch.

Healthy Addiction? My jar of cashews, mostly gone...


1 comment:

  1. So glad to see this post... many people do not understand fats or how much/how little and what kind we should be eating. Thank you for shedding some light on this. You have a very well informed blog here!