While fats have received a bad rap in the past, the keto and paleo craze has really shed light on how important healthy fats are. In fact, the body needs fat to function and for supporting countless body processes. Healthy fats play a role in: (1)
- Helping the body absorb fat-soluble vitamins.
- Supporting energy and cell growth.
- Helping protect our organs.
- Supporting hormone production.
However, not all fats are created equal. There are healthy fats, and then the inflammatory, damaging fats we need to steer clear of. Let’s take a closer look at the kinds of fat you would want to include in your diet and the ones to avoid.
- Monounsaturated fats — found in foods like avocados, olive oil, nuts, and seeds.
- Polyunsaturated Fats — these fats are mostly found in plant foods such as nuts, seeds, and seed oils.
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids — heart-healthy and rich in anti-inflammatory benefits, enjoy foods like wild-caught fish, walnuts, flax, chia, and hemp seeds to optimize your omega-3 intake.
- Trans & Hydrogenated fats — trans fats are by-products of hydrogenation, which is a process that turns oils into solids, which prevents them from spoiling. They are extremely inflammatory and have been linked to an increase in LDL (bad) cholesterol and even in small amounts can be damaging to our health. To avoid trans and hydrogenated fats, avoid things like margarine, pastries, and fast food. Always read the nutrition labels on foods and avoid anything that’s labeled as hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated.
- Saturated fats — while there are some conflicting studies on the pros and cons of certain saturated fats, there’s one thing most health experts can agree on — it’s been to steer clear of processed fats (like deli meat and large consumptions of red meat) and choose healthier fats instead. Generally speaking, the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans is to limit saturated fat intake to 10% of calories per day and to replace these fats with healthier monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. (2)
Carbs have become another hot topic in the wellness industry as more attention is put on lower-carb diets. While not everyone thrives on low carb eating, there are definitely some carbohydrates that all of us should avoid. Here’s the good and the bad when determining which carbohydrates to consider enjoying and which to limit from your diet.
- Complex carbohydrates — complex carbs pack in nutritional value, and since they are much higher in fiber than simple carbs, they take longer to digest, so they are less likely to cause a sudden blood sugar spike.
Some great health options include:
- Rolled oats
Simple carbs are the ones to steer clear of as they are void of nutritional value and fiber, making them much more likely to spike blood sugar levels.
Simple carbs include foods like:
- Pastries and other baked goods
- Soda & fruit juice
- Sugary breakfast cereal
- Table sugar
Let’s talk calories — they are something we all talk about, especially when it comes to weight loss or dieting. The thing about calories is that there are nutrient-dense calories that will help fuel your body with the energy it needs to function at its best, and then there are empty calories that won’t provide the body with anything beneficial at all. Let’s take a closer look at both.
Nutrient-dense Calories — these are going to give you the best bang for your buck in every bite you take. Think dark leafy greens, beans, nuts, seeds, avocados — these all pack in a ton of nutritional value, including important vitamins and minerals your body thrives on. These are the calories you want more of.
Empty Calories — empty calories are unfortunately found in plenty of foods in the Standard American Diet. They carry very little, if any, nutritional value, despite the fact that they are high in calories.
- Fried and processed foods
- Anything that contains high fructose corn syrup
- Foods that contain trans or hydrogenated fats