Fats in your fit life nutrition plan are just as important as the other two macronutrients — protein and carbs. Yet, they often get ignored. Instead of experimenting with different types of fats, many of us choose to limit our fat choices to just a few simple choices, such as flax oil, almonds or fish oil caps. However, you can get healthy fats from lots of different sources, and use them in all kinds of different ways. Here are five healthy sources of fats and what you can do with them.
1. Olive Oil
Perhaps one of the best-known healthy fats, olive oil is a monounsaturated fat that is known for having heart health benefits – lowering bad cholesterol and raising good cholesterol levels. Research suggests that olive oil is one of the key nutrients responsible for the many health benefits of the Mediterranean diet. Olive oil is best for lower temperature cooking and marinating or used as a base for salad dressing. Use high quality extra-virgin olive oil, which means it has been cold pressed once to release the oils from the olives. Not only does EVOO have a better taste, but it also has more nutrients.
For a change of taste, eat olives instead, which are also high in monounsaturated fats. Olives can be added to chicken dishes, added to salads or eaten on their own. When choosing olives, purchase ones that are not packed in additional oil.
Most people know avocados are full of good fat, but when it comes to being creative with them, it stops at guacamole! Instead of just using this rich source of monounsaturated fats to dip your chips in, try using avocado in place of butter, creamy cheeses or sauces. Use mashed avocado as a healthy spread in wraps, on top of organic rice cakes or burgers, or chop and add to a salad instead of cheese. Avocado’s unique creamy texture also allows it to be blended in smoothies, or blended as a dessert with cocoa powder and raspberries to make a vegan chocolate mousse. Avocados should be used within 24 hours after they have been cut open, as the exposed part of the avocado will start to oxidize quickly. You can prevent this by sprinkling the exposed surface with lemon and covering.
3. Sesame Seeds
Sesame seeds have long been used as a source of energy and healthy fat and are rich in vitamins, minerals and phyto-sterols. In fact, sesame seeds have one of the highest total phyto-sterol content of any of the seeds. Sesame seeds can be added to salads or baked into your favorite recipes like protein pancakes, or gluten free crusts made with sesame seed and cauliflower. Sesame seeds can also be ground into a paste and mixed with extra virgin olive oil to make Tahini. This healthy spread can be placed on top of chicken or veggies and baked. Or it can be blended with chickpeas to make healthy hummus.
4. Coconut Oil
This oil is high in saturated fat including lauric acid or MCTs – medium chain triglycerides. These fats are very resistant to heat and remain semi-solid at room temperatures. You can keep coconut oil in your cupboard for the long run and do not need to refrigerate. Shelf life on coconut oil can be up to 2 years. Choose coconut oil that is either virgin or extra virgin, which means it is extracted from the coconut meat using a cold pressing technique to keep the active nutrients and antioxidants intact.
How do you use this yummy oil? Use it instead of butter or other oils in baked goods recipes, swapping it out one for one. You can also use it to roast vegetables like squash or sweet potato with your favorite herbs and spices. Or, for a real treat, use your food processor to blend a few cups of fresh peanuts with a few tablespoons of coconut oil, a teaspoon of 70% dark coco powder, cinnamon and stevia to make your very own coco-peanut butter!
5. Walnut Oil
Derived from walnuts, this nutty flavored oil is high in omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids and has a short shelf-life of about 3 months when refrigerated. It is important to keep this oil stored in a cool dark place, and even in a dark container, as rancidification can be accelerated by heat, light and oxygen. Choose cold pressed walnut oil, which although is more expensive, has not been extracted using solvents. Use walnut oil in salad dressings and smoothies or in desserts that do not require cooking, as heat can change the chemical structure and cause the oil to become bitter.