SEPTEMBER??? Wow. This summer has been such a whirlwind that I am kind of excited to start a new season and a new routine. (That is a diplomatic way of saying I am rejoicing because my kids are back in school, but who am I kidding?) I am glad to be back in the swing of things because regular blogging and podcast recording has been very tough for the last few months. We have been living in a construction site (whole house renovation is almost complete as I write this!) and my days this summer have been spent sweeping up construction dust and answering every imaginable question about dinosaurs, worms, frogs, bats, bones, fish, teeth, fish teeth, skin, mosquitos, bug bites in general, dolphins, horses, how amazing it would be to ride a horse and play with a dolphin at the same time, and popsicles. We have spent an incredible amount of time discussing popsicles. I'm just saying.
Now I am back and ready to talk about food! The real kind of food that you eat. Multiple times a day. It doesn’t come from a box and if someone living in the year 1850 saw it, they would actually know what it is. The kind of real food that makes you feel satisfied, makes your skin clear, your eyes bright, your hair thick and shiny, and your poop a painless, magical, and regular event that you look forward to daily.
Specifically, let’s talk about FAT. (My favorite kind of food.)
In case you are still living in a bleak cave in the year 1993 where you fear eating any fat, think it causes heart disease and obesity, and are existing on Diet Coke and Light and Fit yogurts, please take a few minutes to blow your mind about dietary fat and the cholesterol myth HERE.
If that doesn’t make you want to go knock off a butcher shop on your way home from work, then you can check out my post on putting butter in my coffee to make me superhuman HERE.
Now, back to FAT and why you should put bacon on everything: Eating tons of vegetables is really hard to do without fat. First and foremost, fat makes food taste good! Our bodies already know this, so let’s go with it. There is a reason that salad dressings have a base of FAT: It makes that limp iceberg lettuce seem vaguely edible. (Sidetone: I kind of hate salads unless there are about 3 leaves and 99% other stuff on top. Am I alone in that???)
The fat soluble vitamins A, E, D & K need dietary fat to be absorbed by the body during digestion. Let me repeat that: The cancer-protecting, anti-aging, healthy hormone producing vitamins in your food NEED you to eat good quality fats along with them so that they can be absorbed and utilized by the body.
“Vitamin A is required for a healthy immune system, vision, growth and reproduction. Vitamin D regulates mineral balance in the body, which is necessary for building strong teeth and bones. Vitamin E is an important lipid antioxidant, and vitamin K is required for blood clotting.” - Excerpt from the Nutritional Therapist Winter 2004 Issue
So what is a good quality fat and how should I eat them?
1. GRASS FED BUTTER
Put this on EVERYTHING! Lightly sautéed or roasted veggies, in your coffee or tea, on your sweet potatoes, in some yummy gluten free baked treats...endless options! Kerrygold is a widely available (cheapest at Costco) brand of grass fed butter. I have even seen it sold at Walmart. I talked at length about why grass fed butter is so healthy over HERE.
2. COCONUT OIL
Coconut oil is THE. BEST. oil for sweets, treats, or baked goods of any sort. If your recipe calls for a cancer-causing liquid oil like canola or vegetable oil, please swap coconut oil instead! (Just melt the coconut oil into a liquid first.) Coconut oil is solid at room temperature, so this is a great sub for Crisco or vegetable shortening or anything gross like that. Coconut oil tolerates higher heat than most fats, so this is a great choice for sautéing, roasting, or lightly frying any meats or veggies. Smear some coconut oil on the skin of a whole sweet potato, sprinkle with sea salt, roast it for 45 min or so, and BAM: crispy and delicious. Beyond baking, coconut oil can be used for literally everything. Lotion, lip balm, hair conditioner, face cleanser, makeup remover, diaper rash cream, sealing and conditioning butcher block countertops....the usual.
3. LARD / TALLOW
Lard and tallow have so many uses, but once again, these tolerate heat well and are a great choice for any high heat cooking. Lard, in particular, is also fantastic in baked goods as well. We have evolved as hunters, and our bodies know what to do with animal fats. We use it as fuel for the heart and body and to build healthy cell membranes, and that's all there is to it. Our ancestors had it right: keep this food thing simple, and keep the factories and machines out of it! Highly processed "vegetable" oil: WRONG ANSWER. ***Seriously, though: What the hell is a canola?????
4. FATTY CUTS OF MEAT
I prefer to buy grass fed beef and bison, which is more expensive than commercial feed lot beef. I get that. Meat from grass-fed animals is also higher in Omega 3 fatty acids because cows did not evolve eating corn, and their systems are not designed to digest grains. Until 100 years ago, they ONLY ate grass. I don't claim to know the full extent of that development, but I think it's good practice to go back to procuring our food as closely as possible to how our ancestors did. I find that the higher fat content (80/20 usually) is still pretty affordable and it tastes way better than ultra lean burger or cuts, so that's the best choice in my book. Fat takes longer for the body to digest, so it keeps us full and satisfied for longer.
On that note: Don't live without bacon. Just don't. Life is too short. If you insist on taking the crispy and delicious skin off your chicken (and I hope you don't) then do the right thing and at least wrap your chicken breast in bacon.
5. EGG YOLKS
Mother nature is a smart chick. (Never stop punning.) She packages up tidy little bundles called eggs that are FULL of small amounts of almost every vitamin and mineral necessary in the human body, along with good quality fat and protein. (I am choosing to include yolks in this fat discussion because so many people avoid them unnecessarily from misinformation on cholesterol.) Those uber important fat-soluble vitamins we talked about? Eggs are a great source of them, AND that smarty pants called Mother Nature also threw some fat into the yolks along with those vitamins so that our bodies could utilize them. It's crucial to note that most of the nutrition in an egg is found in the yolk. The egg white is pretty much just protein. Eat the whole egg, ok?
6. SOAKED RAW NUTS AND SEEDS
Nuts and seeds are full of healthy fats! Many varieties are a great source of Omega 3 fatty acids, which are hugely deficient in the modern diet, but are crucial for managing inflammation (among other things) within the body. Use caution here because while some nuts and seeds have a high amount of Omega 3 fatty acids, they also have an even higher amount of Omega 6's, which we already eat an excess of. Don't get too hung up on the details if it seems overwhelming, but know that most nuts and seeds should not be exposed to high heat. Low and slow roasting them yourself is key. There are much better sources of Omega 3's that we'll talk about in a moment. For nuts and seeds: try to limit yourself to a handful and call it good.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil is a kitchen staple for making salad dressings or lightly sautéing pretty much anything. This oil doesn't tolerate very high temperatures, so choose a different fat for roasting or frying. Olive oil is NOT a substitute for Extra Virgin Olive Oil! Only buy Extra Virgin, and it should come in an opaque glass bottle. Fragile fats rancidity from exposure to light and oxygen, and are contaminated easily from plastic packaging.
8. COD LIVER OIL
Unless you are a really adventurous and resourceful chef, I am thinking you will probably get this one in the form of a capsule rather than on a plate. Cod Liver Oil has long been eaten in Northern latitudes because its high content of Vitamin D (and Vitamin A) helps sustain health of its eaters during the long winter months with little sun exposure. *See more details on Vitamin D and its benefits/sources in a post I did HERE. Cod liver oil is also high in Omega 3 fatty acids, which reduce inflammation and can be a useful treatment for depression. Basically, CLO is one of the biggest "bang for your buck" items to add to your diet, and is widely available in supplement form. You can order from a practitioner like me who has access to very high quality supplements through their practice, or even find a reputable brand off the shelf at a health food store. (Nordic Naturals is a widely available brand to choose.) DO find a brand with natural flavoring (usually citrus) and feed it to your kiddos!!
9. WILD CAUGHT FATTY FISH / SEAFOOD
Get you some cold water fatty fish like wild Alaskan salmon, Arctic char, Atlantic mackerel, sardines, anchovies from the Adriatic sea, or my personal favorite: whatever wild trout my brother catches and doesn't have room for in his own freezer. Farmed fish is usually a NO with a few notable exceptions, so do your research. An example is farmed salmon that is raised on grains and other questionable food sources instead of a wild salmon's natural diet of other fish and plankton: the farmed salmon's meat is gray instead of the usual bright pink, so food colorings are added to the meat before sale. It is also lacking in the Omega 3 fatty acids that would be found in wild salmon. GROSS.
10. OMEGA 3 SUPPLEMENTS
It doesn't hurt to give yourself a daily supplement of some Omega 3's along with the great options we have outlined above. Like with the cod liver oil, finding a reputable source of supplements is important as the FDA does not regulate quality and source of those supplements.
If you feel like this is a little hard to remember.....don't worry! You can download my free "What Fats To Eat" cheatsheet below. I've gotcha covered....now go eat some bacon already!!
EAT THESE FATS!
Enter your info to download the FREE "Eat These Fats" cheatsheet