I grew up during the low-fat craze. Margarine was great for you, practically a health food. Low-fat yogurt, cheese, and even fat-free cookies dominated the shelves of supermarkets. It took me serious study of nutrition and health to change my mind - and my eating habits - and incorporate healthy fats into my diet. Amazing things happened. My hair, nails, and skin got healthier and stronger, and I felt fully satisfied after meals. I didn't gain any weight and rarely craved dessert after meals.
During this fall's Real Food Challenge, many of the participants were surprised at the amount of fat included in the meals - nuts AND olive oil on my salad? A whole tablespoon of coconut oil to cook onions? But when cravings for sweets disappeared and they felt fully satisfied for hours after meals, healthy fats won over fat-free Italian dressing and dry, tasteless "healthy" cookies.
When there are excess fats and oils in the diet, especially heavily processed fats, symptoms can include weight gain, skin breakouts, high blood pressure, liver strain and an overall feeling of mental, physical and emotional heaviness. Signs of insufficient high-quality fats are brittle hair and nails, dry skin, hunger after meals and feeling cold.
Not all oils and fats are created equal. Heavily processed, hydrogenated, “trans” fats and oils that are used in prepared, packaged foods can be extremely damaging to the body. However, fats and oils from whole foods and other high-quality sources can steady our metabolism, keep hormone levels even, nourish our skin, hair and nails and provide lubrication to keep the body functioning fluidly. Our bodies also need fat for insulation and to protect and hold our organs in place.
A healthy percentage of high-quality fat in a meal satisfies and leaves feelings of energy, fulfillment and warmth. There are many sources of healthy fats and oils:
Experiment with these healthy fat sources and see which work best for you and leave you satisfied. When selecting fats, buy the highest-quality organic products you can afford, since cooking oils are the backbone of so many dishes. Good words to look for on the label are organic, first-pressed, cold-pressed, extra-virgin and unrefined. Words to avoid are expeller-pressed, refined and solvent extracted.