Contrary to the popular belief that fats are detrimental to our health, they are actually a necessary nutrient that is vital to our body’s ability to function well, and to help reduce inflammation.
Each and every cell in our bodies has a membrane made of fat. Your body will take whatever fat it is given to make those membranes, so if you eat trans-fats or fats that have oxidative damage, then your cell membranes will be made with those fats. When this use of unhealthy fats happens, then our cells can’t function optimally. Likewise, when you eat good fats, your cell membranes will be made from these, and can carry out their job well.
Our brains are also made mostly of fat. Our brains are about 70% fat. The same principle applies to brains as to cells. We need the healthy fats if we want our brains to function optimally. Fats are considered to be neuro-protective. Neuro-protective means that the brain is protected from degeneration or shrinkage that can occur with aging or illness. Research studies indicate that people with low cholesterol levels have increased risk of neurological conditions. We keep hearing we should reduce our cholesterol consumption, but doing so has grave consequences for brain health.
Fats Can Help Reduce Inflammation
Besides being a necessary nutrient, many fats have anti-inflammatory properties that can help bring down inflammation in the body. Inflammation can be found in most chronic health conditions including arthritis, allergies, skin conditions, digestive conditions like IBS, Crohn’s and Colitis, autoimmune conditions and many neurological conditions.
The most important fats for reducing inflammation are the omega-3 fatty acids. Sources of these fats are found in fatty fish, raw walnuts, eggs, flaxseeds and chia seeds, so it’s important to consume these foods regularly. Pasture-raised meats have a much higher omega-3 profile than conventionally raised meats, so switching to pasture-raised meats is another way to increase your omega-3 consumption.
While olive and coconut oils aren’t high in omega-3, these also have anti-inflammatory properties, and it’s important to get good quality organic oils in order for them to have these anti-inflammatory properties.
How Do I Add These Fats to My Diet?
Raw nuts and seeds make great snacks. Walnuts are a great source of omega-3, so mix them up with your favorite dried fruit, or eat them as they are. Walnuts and chia seeds can be sprinkled on cereals, added to granolas or mixed into any salad. To get omega-3s from flaxseeds, you need to grind them in a blender or coffee grinder. Add these ground seeds to smoothies or sprinkle onto soups and salads. Health food stores sell a large variety of nut and seed butters which can be used in a variety of ways. Try dipping apple or pear pieces into walnut butter. YUM!
Eggs are an easy and versatile food. Besides the usual dishes like omelets or boiled or poached eggs, eggs dishes include quiche, soufflés, and flans.
Wild fish is a bit difficult to get in Alberta. Salmon is almost always available, and trout is probably the next most readily available. Steam, bake or grill your fish and serve with your favorite cooked vegetables and a salad.
Avocados, besides being a good source of fat, are very nutrient dense. Add them to salads, smoothies, and guacamole or serve them on their own. Guacamole can also be used as a salad dressing, or throw avocado and olive oil into a food processor with some seasonings.
Olive oil makes the perfect salad dressing with a bit of apple cider vinegar or lemon juice. Try drizzling it over soups, stews or vegetables. The varieties of olive oil are endless, so if you enjoy being creative in the kitchen, try visiting one of the olive oil specialty shops in Calgary.
Coconut oil and clarified butter (ghee) are some of the best fats for cooking with. They are heat stable, so don’t get damaged with heat. Use these when making stir-fries, or for any other cooking in a frying pan where you don’t want foods to stick. You can also use them to make granolas or for baking with.
Pasture-raised meats are easy to swap for any meats you already consume. Visit your local farmer’s market or health food store to obtain these, and look for pasture-raised or grass finished on the packaging.
So go ahead and indulge. You can feel good about drizzling your veggies with a good organic butter, having organic eggs regularly for breakfast, or pouring olive oil over a warming soup or stew.