When it comes to heart health, many of us have been taught that fat is the enemy. It is high in calories per gram and was thought to be a main culprit in weight-gain and obesity. Over the last couple decades, more and more products have been replaced with low-fat or fat-free versions, usually taking out the fat and putting in sugar or salt to keep the flavor. It was a huge diet trend, and the effects of that are still lingering on our grocery store shelves and in our minds when we start to think about ways to get healthy. High-fat foods are usually the first to go when we start trying to lose weight and get healthier.
Not so fast! February is National Heart Month, so when you start to think about ways to improve your heart health this month, think about adding more fat to your diet! Now, not all fats are created equal. There are many ‘bad’ fats out there, such as those found in over-processed, fried, baked and breaded foods. But if you want to start getting healthy, there are lots of ‘good’ fat options to consider adding to your diet, such as those found in nuts, seeds, avocadoes, olive oil, coconut oil and omega-3 rich fish like salmon. Focusing on eating the ‘good’ fats can help manage your mood, help you feel more satisfied with your food, give you energy and help support your brain, in addition to supporting heart health!
Some easy ways to add healthy fats to your diet:
• Make friends with olive oil. Use cold-pressed extra-virgin olive oil to dress salads, cooked vegetables, or pasta dishes. Also use olive oil for stovetop cooking, rather than stick margarine or canola oil. For baking, most chefs prefer butter or ghee (clarified butter).
• Dress your own salad. Commercial salad dressings are often high in calories, saturated fat, or made with damaged trans-fat oils. Create your own healthy dressings with extra virgin olive oil and vinegar.
• Eat more avocados. Try them in sandwiches or salads or make guacamole. Along with being loaded with heart and brain-healthy fats, they make for a filling and satisfying meal.
• Reach for the nuts. You can also add nuts to vegetable dishes or use them instead of breadcrumbs on chicken or fish.
• Snack on olives. Olives are high in healthy monounsaturated fats. But unlike most other high-fat foods, they make for a low-calorie snack when eaten on their own. Try them plain or make a tapenade for dipping.
Also consider this: keeping red meat, eggs and butter in your diet is (surprisingly) another great way to get some healthy fats! But when it comes to meat and dairy sources, fat can carry toxins if it comes from commercially grown or manufactured sources. Focus on quality to make sure you’re getting the best boost from heart-healthy fats, such as choosing organic dairy or grass-fed or organic meats.
Try this yummy guacamole recipe the next time you’re having taco night or are just in the mood for a heart-healthy snack (just make sure to eat it with a healthy dipper!).