Extra-virgin olive oil is one of the healthiest fats one can consume. Photo credit: photodune
Noor H. Salem, Certified Integrative Nutrition Health Coach
Many people are afraid of eating fat; they worry that since it is called “fat” and high in fat content, it will lead to weight-gain or obesity. Fortunately, this is not the case.
Let’s start with the basics: there are good fats and then there are bad fats. If you are fearful to reach for the olive oil because it’s a complete fat, let me assure you that your concerns are unjustified. Extra Virgin Olive Oil is one of the healthiest fats in the world, and it happens to be a food eaten by the Prophet (peace be upon him).
I’m not recommending that you start including deep-fried sweets, fast food, or chips into your diet. For that, I must explain the difference between the bad fats as well as the fats that can do your health wonders.
Trans fat is the fat I’d advise clients to avoid like the plague. Why? This is the type of fat that could promote cardiovascular issues and clog your arteries too. Unfortunately, today there is a ton of trans fat snuck in packaged food, and you wouldn’t even know it’s in there if someone doesn’t bring it to your attention. Don’t focus on the front of the package that may say “0 grams trans fat”, or other deceptive claims like “light,” “low calories,” etc. Skip all those claims; read the back. Even if it says “0 grams trans fat” on the front of the package, legally it can have 0.5 grams or less, which is still harmful for your health. By the back, I’m referring to the ingredient list, not the calories. If you see the word partially hydrogenated oil (even if it’s olive oil) or fully hydrogenated oil anywhere in the ingredient list, put that package back on the shelf. Partially or fully hydrogenated oils literally mean hydrogen was shot into the oils in an industrial manner to change the compounds and make these oils solid at room temperature. This allows the food to last longer, stay softer, and taste better. Inconsolably, it’s a lose-lose situation. Yes, the product may last much longer on the store shelves or in your pantry, or it may taste so moist when you bite into it, but it’s not so tasty for your inner system.
Hydrogenated oils are linked to various health risks, including heart disease, high cholesterol, and even allergies, and they are one of the major ingredients I advise my clients to avoid for themselves, and especially for younger children.
I have seen numerous clients reach their ideal weight goals by eating healthy fats and more importantly, without feeling hungry or deprived whatsoever. Why? It’s due to the fact that healthy fats from sources like raw nuts or seeds, extra virgin olive oil, fatty fish, grass-fed butter, avocadoes, nut butters, organic coconut oil, and so forth do not only provide slow absorption and satiety, but they also contain polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fatty acids. These healthy fats curb your cravings, keep you full longer, have cardiovascular benefits, have vital antioxidants and nutrients, allow you to better absorb nutrients, are great for your memory, and have anti-inflammatory benefits. These are just a few of the benefits coming from these wonderful, whole food sources that are high in fat and taste great too.
What about dairy products? Well, our country had a phase of “low-fat” diets, only to find our generations getting sicker than ever. Several generations ago people were consuming grass-fed butter, only today is it coming back as a health food. We have many replacing this natural fat with margarine and butter-like spreads. These spreads are full of hydrogenated oils, genetically engineered oils, food coloring, and hefty long chemicals you wouldn’t find in nature. We have an obsession with low fat yogurt, fat-free cheese, and skim milk. Nonetheless, these products are not as healthy as they are portrayed to be. For those who purchase grass-fed raw milk, you’re very aware that it comes in “whole” fat. It’s not processed, it’s not pasteurized, and it’s full of its natural good for your fat and digestive enzymes, along with many other benefits. Raw organic cheese also comes in full fat; they don’t process your cheese immensely, add a bunch of coloring and texture protecting chemicals, label it fat-free, and sell it to you as a health food. Raw cheese is in its natural state-raw, with the enzymes which help you digest dairy in the first place. The same goes with yogurt; you see fat-free labels, but they come with a longer ingredient list. That’s due to that fact that they must replace that fat with some other taste-enhancing chemicals. Make sure to avoid fruit yogurts, which come along with plenty of chemicals, colorings, fructose or glucose syrups, and possibly artificial sweeteners. Buy plain yogurt and add your own fruit or granola toppings at home.
So, next time you’re grocery shopping, instead of grabbing the “low-fat” packaged foods thinking they may be a better choice for your health and weight, purchase wonderful sources of healthy whole food fats like raw nuts, full fat plain yogurt, hemp seeds, or extra virgin olive oil.
Editor’s Note: Noor Salem is a Certified Integrative Nutrition Health Coach, and is CEO of her own wellness practice, Holistic Noortrition, LLC. Noor specialized in women’s health, weight loss, and food intolerance versus allergies. She offers individual and group health coaching programs, and is a speaker on the topic of holistic health at workshops and seminars. The views expressed here are her own.