Fat as Part of a Healthy Diet

Author: Linda DiBella

Eat fat, don’t eat fat.  Don’t eat saturated fat, eat saturated fat.  If you’ve been confused about what type and how much fat to include in your diet, you’re not alone.  Yet one thing is certain:  after many years being told to avoid fat (do you remember the no fat, high carb craze?) because it will make you fat, we now realize that fat is absolutely necessary as part of a healthy diet, and if eaten sensibly, will not make you fat (in fact, it’s the excess sugar and refined carbohydrates that are expanding everyone’s waistlines and contributing to heart disease and diabetes).

In general, our diets should include approximately 20 – 35% calories from fat.  So for example, in a 2,000 calorie/day diet, this would amount to 400 – 700 calories.  At 9 calories per gram, this converts to 44 – 78 grams of fat per day.   If that sounds like a lot to you, consider why fat is so important in the diet:

- Fat molecules are major components of cell membranes and are required for proper function and communication between cells.  They help to regulate our metabolism and nourish our hair, skin and nails;

- Cholesterol, a well-known component of fat, is a precursor to a number of hormones, including progesterone, testosterone, cortisol, and vitamin D, which is a hormone as well;

- It is a source of concentrated energy that can be stored by the body.  Although many of us would rather store less fat, two important functions include the production of extra body heat in cooler weather and cushioning of our organs;

- It provides omega-3 (and 6 and 9) fatty acids, which are important for brain and nervous system function as well as heart health;

- Fat is a valuable source of fat-soluble vitamins, including A, D (see above), E, and K.   It is also required for the absorption of these vitamins;

Although we’ve been led to believe that saturated fats lead to elevated cholesterol levels and heart disease, in his extensive study of primitive cultures, Weston Price found that saturated fat was an integral component of a number of diets supporting excellent health, development, and vitality.  This includes the addition of animal fats in the forms of butter, eggs, full fat dairy products, and the fats from animal tissue.

Still, many others believe that only unsaturated fats should be consumed.  However, polyunsaturated fats in the forms of commercially available oils, such as corn, safflower, and soybean undergo a number of processing steps that include bleaching and deodorizing and can lead to inflammation in the body that underlies diabetes, heart disease, cancer, digestive disorders, and premature aging.  Hydrogenated, or trans fats, often found in processed and packaged foods are another source of unhealthy fat that can promote inflammation.

To make fat part of a healthy diet, consume foods that contain healthy fats since they are naturally protected in their whole state.  These include the fats found in nuts, grains, legumes, eggs, fish, fruits and vegetables, and clean sources of meat.

Butter, ghee, coconut, and grapeseed oils have high smoking points so they are great for sautéing.   The benefits of extra virgin olive oil are preserved when used at low heat.  A high quality olive oil works well for drizzling on foods, in dressings and as a dip for breads. Nut and seed oils are also best used unheated as a condiment on vegetables and grains.

Some additional, yet simple ways to get healthy fats into the diet:

  1. Add ground flax seeds to your morning yogurt, granola, or toast with peanut butter.  Sprinkle it on salads or add it to smoothies.  It’s also a great source of fiber.  Add walnuts to foods in a similar manner.  Both flax and walnuts are great plant sources of omega-3 fatty acids, such as ALA.
  2. Use coconut oil for sautéing and coconut milk as a creamy addition to soups.  The oil and milk can also be added to smoothies.   Coconut oil is a saturated fat that contains high levels of medium chain fatty acids that tend to be burned as fuel rather than stored.
  3. Add sliced hard-boiled egg to a salad or prepare them soft-boiled or in an omelet with sliced avocado.  Both are good sources of fats.
  4. Choose wild-caught, cold water, fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, herring, and black cod for the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA which are rare in plants.
  5. Spread natural nut or seed butters on toast, fruits, or vegetables as a quick snack.

A simple yet delicious salad dressing:

1 part lemon or lime juice,
1 part honey or real maple syrup, and
2 parts olive oil

Whisk together and pour onto salad.   Add a bit of soy sauce or tamari and this dressing can be used to marinate salmon.   Allow the salmon to marinate for at least a hour in the fridge before baking in the oven at 400F for ~ 10 – 12 minutes or until cooked through.

For a savory dressing:

1 part balsamic vinegar,
2 parts olive oil, and
a few drops of tamari or soy sauce to taste.

Whisk together and serve with salad.

A Mixed Nut Sauce recipe that uses nuts and coconut milk that works well on vegetables and chicken.

Comments

  1. [...] My Bright Child » Fat as &#80&#97&#114t of a Healthy Diet [...]

  2. Jack said on March 15th at 9:50 pm:

    I want to give thanks very much for that work you have made in writing this article. I am hoping the same most effective job from you in the future too.

  3. Linda said on March 21st at 12:59 am:

    Thank you so much for your kind words Jack. I hope the information is helpful for you and everyone here.

    All the best,
    Linda

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