Our bodies need healthy fats. Cell walls are made of a double layer of fat, the brain is composed of 65-70% fat, and fats provide protective padding to the joints. Healthy fats and oils in the diet promote an increased feeling of fullness, called satiety, because they burn slowly as a fuel source. Fats also boost the nervous system, provide hormone balance, and enable joint mobility and inflammation reduction. Knowing which fats are beneficial to health is very important. Some fats and oils actually cause the body to flare in pain by promoting inflammation or get stored in adipose (fat) tissue where the body cannot access it for energy production.
The best food sources of healthy fats come from mono- and polyunsaturated fats. Be aware though, that just because they are healthier sources does not mean we should overindulge. All fats and oils are high in calories, so limit them to 4-6 small servings a day based on your body’s nutritional needs. If you are using oils, stick with cold-pressed oils including: olive oil, flaxseed oil, grapeseed oil, coconut oil, soybean and safflower oils. Olives and nuts provide usable healthy fats for satiety and energy. Two to three tablespoons per day of chia seeds are a wonderful addition to shakes or Greek yogurt as the seeds contain omega 3 fatty acids. Avocadoes (1/8 of an avocado is the equivalent of 1 teaspoon of oil) are a healthy addition to any diet, and taste wonderful blended in smoothies, made into guacamole, or topped on turkey lettuce rollups. Real butter in small portions is another great natural fuel for the body.
Avoid margarines, shortening, and high-carbohydrate sweets and processed foods. These are unnatural to the body and will store as fat and cause inflammation. Stick with lean meat sources, wild caught fish and oily fish such as salmon, wild game, and cage-free chickens, turkeys, and eggs. Consuming healthy fats in moderation will improve the body’s energy and fat-burning ability, lubricate the joints, fuel the brain, and reduce hunger and cravings.
Contributed by Terri Caunt, R.N., B.S.N.