Don't be afraid of fat — the good kind of course!
Too often when people tell me they are on a "low fat" diet it means they are eating tons of nutritionally vapid and processed foods such as muffins, puddings, cereals, and yogurts. Basically, they are eating foods labeled "low fat."
I know — the "low fat" label can be tempting! It is easy to believe that eating something labeled "low fat" will result in a svelte body. The problem is that so many foods labeled "low fat" are actually high in sugar and nutritionally empty. (Not to mention that most foods that are labeled are not that nutritious. I always encourage my clients to mainly fill their cart with fresh produce and lean proteins — to shop "the outside of the grocery store" — which for the most part will mean buying unlabeled foods. But I digress.)
Back on point: Chronically low fat diets can leave you deficient in a variety of nutrients, making you susceptible to, among other things, dull flaky skin, cold extremities, hormone imbalances, and poor control of inflammation.
Now, I am not giving you the okay to go out and eat french fries; obviously fried food and high fat, processed baked goods are unhealthy, BUT all fats are not created equal. Healthy fats should make up between 20% and 35% of your total calorie intake.
Some tips on healthy fats
1. Good healthy fats are monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats.
2. Some foods rich in monounsaturated fats are olive oil, rapeseed oil, almond oil, avocados, olives, nuts, and seeds.
3. An important sub-category of polyunsaturated fats is "essential fatty acids," which cannot be made in your body. That means you need to eat them. They are grouped into two series: the omega-3 series and the omega-6 series.
4. Omega-3s are especially important; they have been shown to minimize post-exercise muscle soreness, improve delivery of oxygen and nutrients to your cells, enhance aerobic metabolism, and increase energy levels and stamina. In addition, omega-3s are anti-inflammatory, which means they reduce inflammation caused by over-training and prevent joint, tendon, and ligament strains.
5. Sources of omega-3 include salmon, mackerel, trout, cod liver oil, flaxseed oil, walnuts, and pumpkin seeds.
6. Fun fact: Broccoli has 0.1 g of omega-3 per 100 g, which is the same as one non-fortified egg.
One last VERY important point: Consuming healthy fats should be considered one small part of a healthy, well-rounded, nutritionally dense diet. I am NOT suggesting you eat processed, nutritionally dense foods (like muffins or sugary cereals) and feel better about your choices because you throw some flax seeds on top. Adding a food rich in omega-3s to something doesn't make up for an otherwise unhealthy choice. Instead, aim to eat a nutritionally dense diet full of fresh fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, and some healthy fats. Obviously, have a treat once in a while — just make sure the treat is an exception to the rule rather than the norm.