Fat is a key source of energy and essential nutrients,
and you can’t live without it. But all fats aren’t created equal. Nuts, olive oil and fish can help
protect us from certain diseases while low-fat and fat-free foods might be
worse for us than the full-fat options. Replacing sugars and refined
carbohydrates (the main components of all those low-fat and fat-free foods) may
have actually contributed the twin epidemics of obesity and diabetes we are
experiencing today. Here’s
what you need to know: the different types of fats, what fats to avoid, how
much you should eat, and some recipe and cooking ideas:
Types of Fats
· Monounsaturated fats (MUFAs) are found in olive oil, canola oil, and in
walnuts and most other nuts, as well as avocados. MUFAs are usually liquid at
· Polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs) are always liquid both at room temperature and
in the refrigerator. They’re found mostly in oils from vegetables, seeds and
some nuts. Sunflower, safflower, flaxseed, soybean, corn, cottonseed, grape
seed and sesame oils are high in PUFAs. So are the oils in fatty fish such as
sardines, herring and salmon.
Essential fatty acids (EFAs) are two
families of compounds of dietary fats that your body can’t produce on its own.
Both omega-3 and omega-6 EFAs are PUFAs essential to your health and well-being.
Omega-3s are found in the fat of shellfish and cold-water fish. Omega-6s are
found primarily in seeds and grains, as well as in chickens and pigs. Unless
you’re eating a very-low-fat diet, you are most likely getting more than the
recommended amount of omega-6s. . Focus on the right balance of PUFAs: Eat
foods or take supplements rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as shellfish,
cold-water ocean fish and fish oil (salmon, tuna, sardines, herring and
anchovies, as well as non-fish sources such as flaxseed, almonds, walnuts and
canola oil). Use sparingly corn, soybean, cottonseed and peanut oils, which are
all high in omega-6s.
· Saturated fatty acids (SFAs) tend to remain solid at room temperature.
Butter, lard, suet and palm and coconut oils are relatively rich in saturated
fats. This type of fat is fine to consume on an Atkins-type diet because we
know that the body burns primarily fat on Atkins and we know from published
research that the level of saturated fat in the blood when you are following
Atkins does not increase.
· Trans fats should be avoided at all costs. An increased intake of trans
fats is associated with an increased heart attack risk, and they have been
shown to increase the body’s level of inflammation. They are typically found in
foods you should be avoiding already, including fried foods, baked goods,
cookies, crackers, candies, snack foods, icings and vegetable shortenings. To
be sure there are no trans fats in a product, check the list of ingredients,
where trans fats are listed as “shortening” or “hydrogenated vegetable oil” or
“partially hydrogenated vegetable oil.” If you see any of these words in the
ingredients list, just say no. You should also avoid deep-fried foods in fast
food and other restaurants.
How Much Should You Eat?
Although there has been a fat-friendly shift lately,
with more research showing that dietary fat is not the enemy it was once
thought to be, it is important to remember that if you consume too much of
anything, whether it be three “healthy fat” 500-calorie avocados or a box of
donuts packed with trans fats in one sitting, you will gain weight.
Whether you’re doing Atkins 20™ or Atkins 40™, you
should consume three servings of added healthy fats a day (in addition to the
fats you get from protein and dairy). Here’s how you can add healthy fats into
your daily meals and snacks:
· Toss veggies with extra-virgin olive oil and use it to make salad
· Cook with canola and most nut oils, butter or coconut oil.
· Top veggies and other foods with butter.
· Have two to three weekly servings of fish and/or shellfish
· Snack on olives and avocados and include them in salads.
· Snack on nuts and seeds and use them as garnishes.
Remember to balance out your meals with a rainbow of
colors of produce—a wide range of colors ensures you’re getting plenty of
vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber.
Here are some recipes for snacks and meals that
feature healthy fats: