Fats have been much maligned over the last 30-40 years; they have been named as the main culprit in overweight, obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and even some cancers. But, more and more research is showing us that including the right fats in our diets can actually help us to combat disease, and yes, even prevent excessive weight gain.
Saturated fats (fats that are solid at room temperature) and trans-fats (partially hydrogenated oils) indeed do increase our health risks, especially heart disease. We get saturated fats from meats, dairy products, eggs, and even coconut oil. We get trans-fats in some processed foods.
Fats that are liquid at room temperature (liquid oils), fatty fish, avocado, nuts and seeds all contain unsaturated fatty acids, which are the kind that help decrease cholesterol and triglycerides, and thus your risk for heart attack and stroke. Nuts and avocado, both very high fat, high calorie foods, have been shown to reduce appetite for several hours after they are eaten, actually helping with weight control. Unsaturated fats that are high in “omega 3 fatty acids” are especially helpful in decreasing risk for heart disease and stroke and also help keep our eyes healthy and reduce inflammation. The best sources of omega 3’s are fatty fish; they contain DHA (docosohexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid). Vegetable sources of omega 3’s contain the precursors to DHA and EPA, so are great, but not as potent as the fat we get from fish.
Don’t reach for that bag of potato chips or the doughnut made with “healthy fat” just yet…
We do want to eat more healthy fat, but along with that, we want to reduce sugars of all kinds and refined carbohydrates like processed potatoes, and foods made with white flour. This is especially important for anyone with diabetes. For people with diabetes, a higher fat, lower carbohydrate diet can help with blood glucose control, along with all these other benefits. Here are some examples of meals that are high in healthy fats:
- Two extra large eggs + 6 tbsp egg whites scrambled with peppers, onions, and spinach (or whatever veggies you have on hand) in 2 teaspoons olive oil, plus one slice of 100% whole grain toast topped with ¼ avocado and half an orange. (approximately 550 calories, 40 gm carbs, 27 gm protein, 31 gm fat)
- Green salad topped with ½ cup beans, a can of Wild Planet tuna or salmon and ¼ avocado, and your favorite vinaigrette dressing. (Approximately 450 calories, 28 gm carbohydrate, 33 gm protein, and 23 gm fat)
- Small Chicken breast topped with 1 tbsp basil pesto, small potato plus 1 cup cauliflower, onion and peppers, plus garlic and 1 tbsp slivered almonds and herbs tossed in 1 tbsp olive oil and roasted in the oven, plus steamed broccoli. (approximately 630 calories, 40 gm carbohydrate, 35 gm protein and 40 gm fat)
- Snacks: Medium apple (90 calories 23 gm protein); 3 cups Popcorn popped in oil with a little salt (or alternative is a pre-popped popcorn such as “Skinny Pop”) (120 calories, 12 gm carbohydrate and 8-9 gm fat)
This menu plan contains, without snacks about 1630 calories, 108 gm carbohydrate, 95 gm protein, and 94 gm fat (23% protein, 27% carbohydrate and 50% fat). To meet the minimum carbohydrate needs of 130 gm, add a piece of fruit for a snack.
This is the “extreme” in a high heart healthy fat menu, BUT it shows that it is possible to keep carbohydrates on the low side, and healthy fats on the high side.