Node Smith, ND
New Healthy Year, New Healthy Fats
Many people have made New Year’s resolutions, and many of those resolutions have to do with diet and health. If you’re thinking about changing your diet, or know someone who is, chances are that you have, or will have questions about fats. Fats have really been given a bad wrap over the years by dieters, culture and conventional medicine. The idea that fats are unhealthy has led to a plethora of “non-fat” or “low-fat” convenience foods, that really miss the boat in terms of providing a solution to our obesity epidemic or our nutritional needs.
The Entire Body is made up of Fat
The entire body is made up of fat, it’s what keeps cellular integrity, insulates the nervous system, and provides a medium for hormones to be transported and certain vitamins to be stored. The body may be three quarters water, but fats, to a large degree, aid in the manifestation of physical form out of this water. Fats are crucial for energy, joint and muscle health, cognition – which involves a ton of different elements that rely on the proper balance of fats – as well as the ability to go periods of time without eating (the brain uses fats for energy once glycogen stores are used up, which doesn’t take all that long, especially in active individuals). Many hormonal processes in the body rely on a proper ratio of fats as well.
The Belief that Fats make you fat is perhaps the Biggest Health Myth in America
In fact, healthy fats actually help lower cholesterol and normalize triglycerides and blood sugar. But not all fats are created equal. Hydrogenated vegetable oils, rancid oils that sit in fryers at restaurants, and other oxidized or contaminated oils and trans fats are horrible for the body, and are akin to using used motor oil in your car. So, here’s a list of the 6 most healthy fats to help you in the new year – and I almost forgot, fats help satiate our hunger, so including it in the diet actually leads to eating less, and feeling more satisfied; something extremely important for individuals moving from a high refined carbohydrate diet to a whole foods diet.
Here’s the list:
Avocados are an incredibly oily fruit, and super rich in monounsaturated fats (which help raise good cholesterol, HDL). Avocado oil is also very heat stable, which means that it is better to use to fry with than other oils.
Forget what the media says about butter. Butter is a good source of essential omega-3 and 6 fatty acids as well as the mineral selenium. It is preferable to use organic, grass fed sources. However, because of its low smoke point – 250 degrees – it’s not ideal for use in high heat cooking.
You can use coconut for just about everything, as you may already know – skin, hair, cooking, cleaning the makeup off your face, etc. Its high in medium chain fatty acids, which the body does not store as fat, and instead uses it for energy immediately. It’s a great oil to use in smoothies and as a butter substitute. It contains many antioxidants, that are anti-inflammatory.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
There has been a ton of research showing that olive oil is great for cardiovascular health. It is full of antioxidants, and helps lower inflammation. However, it is important to make sure that you’re using “extra virgin” olive oil, and that the oil is not rancid. Usually quality olive oil will be more expensive, be packaged in a darker bottle – to keep it from light damage – and taste delicious.
Fish oil has become very popular, and it is a very nutritious oil, that can come from eating fish. It is very high in essential omega-3 fatty acids, and vitamin A and D (cod liver oil). Be weary about the quality of fish oil supplements, however. Many cheaper fish oil products contain contaminated oils, or are combined with low quality oils to add bulk to the supplement. This is a supplement that is worth spending a little more to get from a reputable supplier.
Seeds and Nuts
Nuts and seeds are amazing foods. They are packed full of nutritious vitamins and minerals, protein, and fats. They are great foods to snack on, and tend to satisfy mid day hunger incredibly well.
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Node Smith, ND, is a naturopathic physician in Portland, OR and associate editor for NDNR. He has been instrumental in maintaining a firm connection to the philosophy and heritage of naturopathic medicine among the next generation of docs. He helped found the first multi-generational experiential retreat, which brings elders, alumni, and students together for a weekend camp-out where naturopathic medicine and medical philosophy are experienced in nature. Four years ago he helped found the non-profit, Association for Naturopathic ReVitalization (ANR), for which he serves as the board chairman. ANR has a mission to inspire health practitioners to embody the naturopathic principles through experiential education. Node also has a firm belief that the next era of naturopathic medicine will see a resurgence of in-patient facilities which use fasting, earthing, hydrotherapy and homeopathy to bring people back from chronic diseases of modern living; he is involved in numerous conversations and projects to bring about this vision.