There are many misconceptions nowadays that all seem to favor one problematic and misleading proposition: that eating fat makes you fat, and thus you should avoid it at all costs. The logic behind such assumptions is that since fat is loaded with calories (1 gram of fat has 9 calories compared to 4 calories per 1 gram of carbohydrate or protein) it can only do more harm than good. I am here to tell you that such conclusions could not be further from the truth. Food science has already confirmed that the (im)balance of calories consumed versus calories expended determine whether the energy in food gets stored as fat or not. Fat is more filling than carbohydrates, and thus people tend to eat less from such products. This does not mean, however, that we should stick to such old-fashioned assumptions and avoid consuming healthy fats altogether.
In the following, I would like to highlight 8 healthy food sources that you could utilize to not only improve your cardiovascular health but also contribute to your weight loss endeavors. Yes, you read it right. Conscious and careful fat consumption can contribute to weight loss, too. Let’s get on with it, shall we?
Historically, eggs have been one of the most controversial food sources out there. Many research and clinical studies have been conducted to identify potential health risks of consuming eggs, but the negative publicity of eggs in the past few decades can be credited to the fact that one single egg yolk has 213 mg of cholesterol that makes 70% of the total daily amount of 300mg recommended by the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Then, eggs started to gain traction once more when they were applauded for their high protein and heart-healthy DHA omega-3 fatty acid content.
Despite of all that, whole eggs are probably one of the most inexpensive food items with more essential vitamins and minerals than any other food. Given the fact that eggs are an excellent source of choline, a substance that the body requires to turn fat into energy, they are also rich in two very important antioxidants: lutein and zeaxinthin. These two substances help prevent cataracts (clouding of the lens in the eye that leads to decreased vision) and macular degeneration (loss of vision in the centre of the visual field).
An article you may like: 5 Foods To Boost Your Eye Health
If you have been afraid of eggs so far, then forget all that you have been told and start eating eggs. Studies conducted at Wake Forest University have shown that there is no correlation whatsoever between egg consumption and heart disease.
Word of caution: The American Health Association recommends that people who have elevated cholesterol or increased risk factors for heart disease should not consume more than 200 mg of dietary cholesterol, which equals one single egg yolk a day.
Consuming olive oil is one of the many good things you can do to yourself if you are really thinking about changing your eating habits altogether. Olive oil belongs to the group of monounsaturated fatty acids that are considered a healthy dietary fat source due to the following health benefits:
- lowered total cholesterol levels
- lowered low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels
- decreased blood clotting
- offers better insulin levels and blood sugar control (an ideal health benefit if you are suffering from type 2 diabetes)
Despite of all these amazing health benefits, we must not forget that olive oil is a fatty acid and that fat is rather calorie-dense (9 calories in 1 gram). Therefore, we must consume them in moderation. Choosing olive oil in place of your regular butter or margarine can go a long way in making sure you stay healthy and beautiful all year round.
Word of caution: Do not use olive oils for cooking, for they have a low smoke point. What this means is that once they are exposed to heat, they go rancid fairly quickly, which can turn an otherwise healthy oil into unhealthy oil, thus running the risk of creating inflammation in your body.
Avocado is one of the most renowned go-to ingredients on parties for making guacamole dips, but they are also rather frequently used on salads, smoothies and brownies to create a unique flavor. What is it that makes this pear-shaped fruit a commodity of great renown?
Avocados offer more than 20 vitamins and minerals in every single serving, such as potassium(blood pressure), folate(cell repair), lutein(eye health) or B vitamins that help us fight off infection or disease. Given their Vitamin C and E content, they are also an excellent means of fighting or preventing cancer.
On top of all that, they are low in sugar and contain fiber (gives a feeling of satiety that can be a useful asset in any diet). The most important fact of all is that avocados are also high in monounsaturated ‘healthy’ fat that lowers bad cholesterol levels but only if you consume them with care and in moderation (avocados are high in calories, that is).
I am sure you have heard many times before that eating Omega-3 fatty acid through food sources is something that you should definitely do if you want to stay healthy. According to the American Heart Association, we should eat fish (mainly fatty fish) at least two times a week. Fatty fish like mackerel, salmon, lake trout, albacore tuna, sardines or herring are extremely high in omega-3, so these are the kinds of fish we should be focusing on.
Fish is an excellent source of quality protein, and unlike fatty meat products, it is not high in saturated fat. Given its high dose of omega-3, fish is extremely beneficial for improving heart health in general and preventing different cardiovascular diseases in particular. Numerous studies have confirmed the following health benefits of omega-3 fatty acid:
- decreases the risk of abnormal heartbeat (arrhytmia) that is often the number one cause of sudden death in people.
- lower blood pressure
- prevents/decreases atherosclerosis (the thickening of artery walls)
Word of caution: Avoid eating Mackarel, tilefish, shark or swordfish, for they contain excess amounts of mercury. Also, when it comes to omega- 3 supplementation, taking more than 300 mg of it should only be done under a primary care physician’s supervision.
Nuts are the holy grail of healthy fats. Walnuts, almonds and other nuts, if eaten as part of a balanced healthy diet, can contribute a great deal to your overall health and cholesterol levels. The best about nuts is that they are not only inexpensive and easy to pack when you are on the go, but they are also full of heart-healthy nutrients no matter what kind of nut you like: almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts…you name it.
Let’s see some of the benefits that make nuts an ideal choice for anyone:
- lowers LDL “bad” cholesterol levels (a primary cause of heart disease worldwide)
- Reduces the risk of blood clotting
- Improves the health of the lining of arteries
Nuts are also an excellent source of unsaturated fats, Omega 3 fatty acids, fibers (you know, the thing that makes you eat less), vitamins and other substances that are vital to our long-term well being.
Word of caution: Nuts are also extremely calorie dense. Fat consumed in the diet beyond what the body can immediately metabolize/use as an energy source will be stored as fat. Therefore, make sure you do not consume more than a handful of your favorite walnuts or peanuts a day.
When it comes to grease, people tend to turn away in disgust because they believe that animal fat is the villain everyone should stay away from. The reason why hamburger does not fit into any weight loss diet is not because it is greasy. The reason why it is unhealthy is because hamburgers generally contain a large and complicated mixture of toxic vegetable oils as well as highly-processed and genetically-modified ingredients. Also, the meat often comes from sick factory animals that is often the consequence of how these animals are treated and housed in these large establishments.
So what happened to us? Every single indigenous culture consumed a large variety of animal fats in varying quantities based on where they were geographically located. Even though these cultures consumed a lot of animal fats, there has been no indication that these people actually suffered from similar degenerative diseases that modern people experience nowadays. As a matter of fact, in his book entitled Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, according to Dr. Weston Price, an author and scientist of great renown, these people had high longevity as well due to their consuming of animals, vegetables and fruits in their unaltered “raw” state.
Health Benefits of Animal fats:
- Contain Vitamin A and D (needed for the assimilation of protein)
- Dietary fats are required for converting carotene to Vitamin A and mineral absorption.
- they are concentrated sources of energy
- they are building blocks of cell membranes and a large set of hormones.
- Saturated fats (in moderation) support our cells’ walls, promote essential fatty acid metabolism, and enhance the immune system while also contribute to strong bones and the protection of the liver
- Dietary cholesterol strengthens the intestinal wall and helps children develop a healthy nervous system.
Word of Caution: Animal fats make an excellent choice for cooking with, but I urge you to use the ones that come from grass-fed, pasteurized and organic animals. Normally, if you can gain access to high quality fat sources such as, ghee, tallow or lard, then they would make an excellent, delicious and healthy alternative.
Soybean oil, being one of the many ancient crops from the Chinese inlands, was introduced to the rest of the world some hundred years ago. According to the U.S Agricultural Services, it has by now become one of the most popular cooking oils. Soybean oil is a rather healthy oil, provided that you are using the non-hydrogenated and organic version of it. It would be particular useful for someone who is missing essential Omega-6 (linoleic acid) from one’s diet, for 50% of it consists of linoleic acid. Monounsaturated fats are in abundance in this kind of oil (approximately 25%), so if your diet requires more of it, there you have it.
Health Benefits of Soybean oil:
- Has a good lipid profile (meaning, it has saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats in healthy proportions)
- It is a stable cooking oil with a long shelf life
- low in saturated fats and free from cholesterol (Soybean is considered the healthiest cooking oil of all)
- According to the FDA, it reduces the risk of heart disease because the phytosterols found in it completely inhibit cholesterol absorption in the gut while also reducing blood cholesterol levels by approximately 10-15%.
- Soybean is filled with the antioxidant called Vitamin E. (maintains the integrity of cell membranes and skin by protecting them from oxygen-free radicals)
- There is a high Vitamin K concentration in Soybean oil that contributes to bone health, bone strength and bone formation. Given its ability to limit neuronal damage to the brain, Vitamin K is often used in the treatment of patients with Alzheimer’s disease.
According to the International Dairy Foods Association, Americans eat a record amount of cheese – more than 10.6 billion were produced in 2011. This fact in itself would be a favorable one, but the problem is that we do not usually eat it the way we should. Poured over nachos and pizzas, or stacked on top of crackers, pretty much cancel all the health benefits that they may yield on their own. If you are shooting for cheese, you should choose the fat-free and low-fat kind to make the most of the number of health benefits.
These health benefits are as follows:
- full of bone-building calcium as well as protein, zinc, Vitamin A, Vitamin B12 and phosphorus
- Keeps teeth and bones strong
- In moderation, cheese can help you lose weight
- Protects against osteoporosis and PMS Symptoms in women
- Zinc and Biotin: aids tissue repair, prevents and treats macular degeneration, keeps your nails strong and skin smooth.
Taking a look at these health benefits, we can easily see how adding cheese to our meals (in moderation) can go a long way in helping us reap the aforementioned long-term health benefits. If you are afraid of the high concentration of saturated fats in it, then do not be: recent research has shown that there is little to no correlation between the consumption of saturated fats and heart disease. This does not mean that we can just go ahead and eat them mindlessly. It is all about control and portions.
Word of Caution: If you are lactose intolerant, Cheddar, Swiss or other aged cheeses would be ideal alternatives, for they contain little to no lactose. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends the consumption of 3 servings of milk, cheese or yoghurt every day for individuals aged 9 and over. One serving = one or one-half ounces of hard cheese, two ounces of processed cheese and one-third cup of grated one.
Consuming healthy fats in our diet has a large pool of benefits to our cardiovascular health. If you pay attention to the amount of fat you take in every day, you can potentially contribute to your weight loss endeavors, too. Yes, fight fire with fire, that is, fat with fat. Several studies have proven that as long as calorie intake is equal across diets, the percentage of calories consumed from fat, protein and carbs does not make a difference in a sustained weight loss program. What this means is that as long as you pay attention to the amount of micro – and macronutrients consumed in your diet, you do not have to be afraid of putting on weight or putting yourself at risk of any heart-related disease.