It’s not news to anyone that fad diets come and go like crazy, demonizing one food and then glorifying the same one just a few years later. The macronutrient that seems to go back and forth the most: fat.
Throughout much of our history, you see fad elimination diets, cleanses, etc., and especially people eating a certain way to look a certain way. Why can’t we just eat for good health?? (Ok fine getting off-topic…) Low-fat diets were pretty much the thing in the 2000s, but now we’re seeing the emergence of things like Keto and of course Atkin’s. There’s so much confusion around whether it’s good or bad. How much of it should we eat? What kinds of fat should we eat? Is butter bad? Can I still eat steak and feel good about it?
In my opinion, fat is GREAT! It keeps you full, it tastes good, and not to mention it is necessary for a variety of functions in your body. Fat supports brain development, provides cushioning and insulation for your internal organs, supports hormone synthesis, and even ensures the proper absorption of certain vitamins.
I wanted to break the idea of “fat” down for you into simpler terms. Here are the different types, and where you can find them in your diet:
Monounsaturated fatty acids:
Monounsaturated fats are great because they support your heart and increase your “good” cholesterol (HDL) while lowering “bad” cholesterol (LDL). Examples of monounsaturated fats include avocado, nuts, seeds, and vegetable oil.
Polyunsaturated fatty acids:
I’m sure you’ve heard quite a lot about these: omega-3 and omega-6. These fats are essential to our diets because we can’t synthesize them in the body. Omega-3’s, often seen in supplements like fish oil, reduce inflammation, support a healthy heart, reduce the risk of cancer, and even reduce the symptoms of depression. There are three different omega-3’s: EPA, DHA, and ALA. Omega 3 EPA and DHA can be found in salmon, mackerel, and tuna, while omega 3 ALA can be found in walnuts, canola oil, chia seeds, flax seeds, and eggs that come from chickens with diets high in omega-3s. Western diets do tend to be higher in omega-6 and lacking in omega-3, which has shown to promote inflammation. Sources of omega-6 include safflower oil, corn oil, nuts, seeds, and soy products.
Saturated fatty acids:
It’s generally recommended that saturated fats are limited to 10% or less of the total calories consumed daily. Saturated fats include fatty meats, lard, dairy, and tropical oils like palm, cocoa, and coconut. When consuming saturated fat in the form of meat and animal-based products, I recommend buying grass-fed and pasture-raised as often as possible.
Trans fats are widely accepted to be the worst of all fats. They have a high association with heart disease, atherosclerosis, and are inflammatory, so they should be avoided when possible. As of May 2019, the FDA even banned companies in the US from using trans fats in products, although there are certain exemptions. Trans fats may be found in processed baked goods, margarine, frozen foods, and fried foods.
The bottom line is that fat can be good or bad depending on the quantity and quality of what you’re eating. I always try to work in a source of fat into my meals and/or snacks in the form of a protein, or a “garnish”. For breakfast, I love avocado toast with pasture-raised eggs, with the occasional piece of nitrate and sugar-free bacon on the side. For lunches and dinners, I use healthy oils like olive oil and avocado oil for dressings, wild-caught salmon, or pasture-raised/grass-fed chicken or beef.
I especially love salmon because it’s so versatile – you can season it with soy sauce, garlic, and maple syrup for an easy teriyaki style sauce, or with ingredients as simple as garlic and lemon to keep it very fresh and light. Here is a recent recipe of mine to get you started!
Chili Onion Crunch Salmon:
Wild-caught salmon filets
Trader Joe’s Chili Onion Crunch
Salt and pepper to taste
- Pat each salmon filet dry.
- Sprinkle each salmon filet with a pinch of salt and pepper, rub it into the salmon to distribute evenly.
- Drizzle the salmon with a small amount of maple syrup and soy sauce, let sit for 15 mins.
- Heat a pan over medium heat with some olive oil or avocado oil.
- Coat the top of the salmon filets (not the skin side) with the Chili Onion Crunch, and then place “crunch-side” down in the pan.
- Sear the first side for 4 minutes, then flip so the skin side is down for roughly 3 minutes.
- Top with extra Chili Onion Crunch or the oil from it as desired and serve!
*I served my salmon with coconut basmati rice and roasted bok choy and shishito peppers.