With increasing health trends, more individuals are shifting towards a healthier diet. At your local grocery store, you may spot a variety of products labeled fat-free, reduced-fat or low-fat. However, these labels do not necessarily mean they are healthier. They may contain additional additives to mask the taste of the original product.
When fat is removed from products, there will be a product to replace it, which leads to a taste difference. Sugar, salt, thickeners and flours are all ingredients added to get the new product as close to the original full-fat flavor. Therefore, these labeled “low-fat” foods may contain many additives, which will end up being unhealthier than the fat normally present in foods.
Fats are essential to include in our diet. Essential fatty acids help with function of the nervous system, maintains healthy blood vessels and hormone levels. The fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K) help absorb vitamins from other foods. Following a low-fat diet may impair this function impacting bone and immunity health. Instead of turning to low-fat foods, focus on incorporating healthy fats into your everyday diet.
Sources of healthy fats:
1. Fatty Fish such as salmon, herring, sardines and trout are all great sources of healthy fats. These are packed with heart-healthy omega-3's. It is recommended to consume at least 2-3 servings a week.
2. Nuts/Nut Butters are high in fiber and a great source of plant-based protein. They also contain high levels of vitamin E as well as Magnesium. People who consume nuts on a regular basis tend to have a lower risk of disease. A few sources are almonds, pistachios, cashews, pecans and hazelnuts. Nuts are a great snack to pack in your bags and to eat as a mid-day snack.
3. Extra Virgin Olive Oil is an important component of the Mediterranean diet, also know as the anti-inflammatory diet. EVOO contains antioxidants as well as vitamins E and K. This oil has been shown to lower blood pressure, improve cholesterol and many other benefits. Use EVOO to saute foods on low heart or to drizzle over fresh salads.
4. Avocados are high in oleic acid, which is a monounsaturated fat. This is the fatty acid most present in olive oil containing many health benefits. They contain 40% more potassium than a banana and is a great source of fiber. Studies have also shown that moderate avocado consumption may lower LDL and raise HDL (good cholesterol). Mash some avocado into your sandwich or slice some on top of your favorite vegetable soup!
5. Full-fat yogurt is healthy. It is packed with probiotics (healthy bacteria) to aid in digestive health. Make sure you pick real, full-fat yogurts and read the nutrition label. Lower fat yogurts may be loaded with sugar and additives.
Overall, consuming heart-healthy fats like the sources above will help you develop an overall healthier balanced diet. Although heart-healthy, you should not be eating them in excess. The best way to keep a balanced diet is incorporating a variety of whole grains, lean protein and heart-healthy fats. The food you consume either feeds disease or fights it.