The Healthy, Plant-Based Flexitarian Diet II: Fats

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You may have heard by now that low fat diets are out and rightly so! After all, since government recommendations have led us to believe that fats are responsible for obesity and the whole western population went on a low fat diet, the weight of said population has increased considerably! Instead of eating real food, we have been led to believe that the no and low fat products are healthier, when these products contained artificial sweeteners, additives and sugar to make them palatable to us. Oh, if they only had left the fat in those products!

Fat in our bodies

Fats play an incredibly important role in our bodies: they are super essential for our body integrity and our body’s functioning. Every single cell in our body has a layer of – yes, you guessed it right – fat around it that provides a boundary to the outside environment. Our nervous system relies on electrical stimulants and what isolates the rest of our body from all that electricity going rampant? Again, fat! Our hormones rely on fat as building blocks … well, I could go on.

Fat as part of a clean diet

So, how do we get those fats best in if we want to eat clean? This is an important consideration as fat does not equal fat. I am sure you are aware of saturated, mono-unsaturated and poly-unsaturated fats. The saturated fats have had their fair share of bad press, alongside fats in general, but this is not quite justified. Plant-based, saturated fats are actually extremely healthy and so very useful for cooking and baking. Think coconut oil! It won’t burn at high temperatures and cause chemical reactions that cause toxic substances (to our bodies) to be released. For salads, cold-pressed extra virgin oils (produced in a way that maintains the nutrients) are great: think olive oil, nut and seed oils, avocados.

One important consideration with regard to fats is how rich in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids they are. Both of these fatty acids (which are building stones for fats) are essential for our bodies in different ways; however, we need to have them in the correct ratio. A normal western diet contains way too many omega-6es, and way too little omega-3s. To adjust this ratio to a more desirable one, reduce the amount of processed foods and meat and dairy products you eat, and ramp up on cold-water fish like mackerels and salmon. If you want to keep it vegetarian, go for chia or flaxseeds or walnuts, but be aware that in some plant sources like flaxseeds or walnuts, the omega-3 is not readily available to our bodies. Our body actually needs to convert alpha-linoic acid (another fatty acid) into omega-3, as omega-3 itself is not present in flaxseeds and walnuts.

Lastly, I want to mention trans fats. You’ll find them in lots of processed foods such as margarines (yes, even the vegan, supposedly healthy ones), donuts, junk foods, fries and other baked goods. These fats are completely synthetic, not something our body is familiar with, so stay away from them. They are the fats that have really earned their bad reputation as they contribute to a whole range of health problems including heart disease and cancer!

So, I hope this has helped you to gain a bit of clarity of what is going on in your body with regard to fats, why they are hugely important for you and why you want to have them, not stay away from them!

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