Improve your health by eating MORE fat. Simple ways to get healthy unsaturated fats and cut bad saturated and trans fats. Fat can and must be separated into “good fats” and “bad fats” in order to decide what should and shouldn’t be included in our diet…
For my New Years resolution this year, I am focusing on eating more fat. Yes, thats right. More fat. Because I am vegan and my diet consists mainly of whole grains, beans, legumes, and fresh produce, I sometimes forget to eat enough fat. Our bodies need fat for virtually every bodily function from regulating hormones to building cell walls.
As a vegan, I am particularly concerned about getting enough fat because it is needed to absorb the fat-soluble vitamins D and vitamin Kboth of which are essential for bone health. Osteoporosis is affecting 1/3 of women and 1/5 of men over 60, so it is more than just vegans who should be worried about it. You can stand in the sun all day, but you wont absorb vitamin D if you dont have dietary fat to transport it into your body!
Of course I dont plan on increasing my intake of just any fat. Trans fats, like those found in processed junk food, need to be avoided at all costs. It is the healthy unsaturated fats (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats) that our bodies need, as well as some types of saturated fat. Here are some easy ways you can get more healthy fat in your diet.
Table of Contents
- 0.1 Avocado Spreads
- 0.2 Nut Cheeses
- 0.4 Veggie Sticks with Fatty Dips and Spreads
- 0.5 Make Your Own Fancy Salad Dressings
- 0.6 Chia Seed Pudding
- 3 A Healthy Vegan Diet NEEDS Good Fats
- 4 9 Sources of Good Fats
- 4.1 Flax Seeds: 6388 mg per 1 oz.
- 4.3 Chia Seeds: 4915 mg per 1 oz.
- 4.5 Hemp Seeds: 1100 mg per 1 oz.
- 4.6 Mustard Oil: 826 mg per 1 tbsp.
- 4.7 Spirulina: 58 mg per tbsp.
- 4.8 Spinach: 352 mg per cup cooked
- 4.9 Blueberries: 174 mg per 1 cup
- 4.10 Wild Rice: 156 mg per 1 cup cooked
- 4.11 Winter Squash: 338 mg per 1 cup cooked
- 4.12 Super Green Guacamole
The reason that avocados taste so good is because they are loaded with fat: 75-80% of the calories in an avocado come from fat. Most of these fats are healthy monounsaturated fats which help heart health. There is saturated fat in avocado, but the benefits of the healthy fats are so much that studies show avocado reduces the risk of heart disease. As an added bonus, if you use avocado spreads in place of spreads like hydrogenated margarine or mayo, you are simultaneously decreasing your intake of unhealthy fats!
Nuts are one of the best sources of healthy fats and Omega 3, as well as other nutrients like protein magnesium, vitamin E and B vitamins. Some are also great sources of calcium and iron. I already add ground nuts to my oatmeal every morning and they help me stay full all day long. This year, I am going to get more serious about healthy fat intake by consuming nut cheeses.
It is pretty easy to make a good nut cheese. You just soak some nuts (cashews work best) and then blend them up with some herbs and seasonings, and maybe some nutritional yeast too (which also happens to be a healthy fat). If you are serious about making awesome nut cheeses, then check out the book Artisan Vegan Cheeses by Miyoko Schinner. It even has recipes for sliceable and air-dried cheeses. You can buy it here or read my review here.
Veggie Sticks with Fatty Dips and Spreads
Lets say that you eat some celery sticks as a snack. Celery is rich in the fat soluble vitamins A and K. So, you would logically assume that celery is a good source of these vitamins. However, that is NOT the case because celery doesnt contain any fat. In order to absorb the fat-soluble vitamins from the celery, you need to consume some fat along with it. Luckily, celery tastes awesome slathered in peanut butter or dunked into a homemade vegan tzatziki.
Some ideas for fat-rich healthy snacks include:
- Bumps on a log (celery with peanut butter and raisins)
- Vegan tzatziki with veggie sticks
- Coconut oil smoothies
- Tahini dip for chips
Eating celery with peanut butter means you will absorb the fat-soluble vitamins in the celery!
Make Your Own Fancy Salad Dressings
Don’t choose no-fat salad dressings! You need some fat in your salad dressings to help you absorb the fat soluble vitamins in the salad veggies. Plus, some fat is going to make the salad taste a heck of a lot better, thus increasing the likelihood that you will actually eat salad more often. Fat also helps you feel full for longer. Yes, a salad can fill you up!
Some of the best sources of healthy fats are specialty oils like hazelnut oil and walnut oil. These oils are too expensive to use regularly for cooking (at least for my budget), but they do make a great base for a salad dressing. Just mix with vinegar and some salt and drizzle on your salads. Or get even fancier by making your own salad dressing with healthy oils, avocado, coconut oil, or tahini as bases.
Chia Seed Pudding
Chia seeds deserve their title as a super food because they have a great Omega 3 to Omega 6 ratio and are a great vegan source of calcium, protein, fiber, and antioxidants. Still not sure what to do with these seeds aside from grow them into a chia pet? Try soaking 3 tbsp of chia seeds overnight in 1 cup of non-dairy milk (which is also a healthy fat) and add some fruit or chocolate. The chia seeds will expand and turn into a nice pudding that you can eat for breakfast.
Thanks to the paleo and gluten-free craze, there are now tons of options for flours. I personally love gluten and grains so am not advocating to give up wheat completely, but you can really enhance your diet by embracing other types of flours in your cooking. As far as healthy fats go, here are some of my favorites:
- Almond flour: You can buy it or make your own by blending almonds into a meal
- Acorn flour: Yes, acorns are edible and super healthy! They are loaded with monounsaturated and some polyunsaturated fats, as well as protein, iron, calcium, and B vitamins. If you are in the US, you can buy acorn from this site. Or go gather some acorns and make your own 🙂
- Coconut flour: This one works especially well for baking sweets because of the rich flavor it gives. You can buy bulk organic coconut flour online by Viva Labs for fairly cheap..
- Teff flour: Teff is a grain from Africa and is used in making delicious fermented injera Ethiopian bread. It is gluten free and loaded with protein, iron, calcium, fiber, and healthy fats.
Because of its favorable Omega 3 to Omega 6 ratio, flax is one of the healthiest fats in the world. If you are vegan, then you are already probably familiar with flax meal as an egg replacer. To make a flegg (flax egg), mix 1 tbsp of flax meal with 3 tbsp of warm water. Use in place of a regular egg when baking. You avoid the unhealthy fats and cholesterol from the egg while getting a boost of healthy fats plus fiber and nutrients from the flax.
A Healthy Vegan Diet NEEDS Good Fats
To keep our nutrition balanced and our bodies nourished, we must eat fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds, aka plant-based, and avoid all animal products. This is something that all vegans can vehemently agree on. However, many people, both vegan and omnivorous, still believe that a healthy diet contains little to no fat. This blanket statement about fat is mostly wrong and could very well be a detriment to your health. All fat is not created equal. Fat can and must be separated into good and bad in order to decide what should be included and what must be eliminated from our diet, to keep our bodies functioning properly.
A person following a balanced, healthy diet will include healthy fats, like monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats (Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids), and eliminate items containing saturated fat and trans fat. The USDA recommends that healthy adults over the age of 19 consume 20-35% of their daily calories from good fat. Consuming the proper amounts of healthy fats provides the body with essential Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids, provides structure for our cells, keeps our skin soft, and helps the body absorb fat-soluble vitamins and antioxidants. They are also wonderful sources for energy stores. Omega-3 fats are crucial for brain, nerve, and heart health. Replacing saturated fats with polyunsaturated fats can reduce the risk for heart disease by up to 50%. Additionally, high levels of trans fats in the diet have been proven to increase heart disease rates by about 25%, and to increase the risk for many other diseases. Many trans fats have vegetable sources, so it is important to look for words like partially hydrogenated and avoid foods containing those oils. Trans fats and all saturated fats, aside from palm oil and coconut oil, come from animal sources. We can obtain all of the necessary good fats via a plant-based diet.
Monounsaturated fats, also known as Omega-9 fats, n-9, or oleic acid, can be found in nuts and avocados. Polyunsaturated fats can be obtained via many nuts (almonds, cashews, filberts/hazelnuts, macadamias, peanuts, and pecans), seeds, algae, and leafy greens. Polyunsaturated fats are divided into two types: Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids. Our bodies make all the fatty acids that they need, with the exception of linoleic acid (LA), an Omega-6 fatty acid, and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), an Omega-3 fatty acid. These “essential fatty acids” must be consumed, and are required for growth and repair, as well as production of other fatty acids. ALA is the principal Omega-3. The body uses ALA to make eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenonic acid (DHA). Contrary to popular belief about the necessity of EPA and DHA rich animal foods like fatty fish, this proves that ALA is the only essential Omega-3 fatty acid, and is easily found in many vegetables, beans (particularly mung beans), nuts, seeds, soy products, grains, vegetables and fruits. Some examples of ALA rich foods are flaxseeds, walnuts, as well as flaxseed, canola, soybean, and walnut oils, and wheat germ. Corn, safflower, sunflower, and cottonseed oils also contain Omega-3s, although they are not as high in omegas as the previous oils mentioned. One might think it would be less taxing on the body and easier to simply consume foods containing EPA and DHA, rather than forcing your body to go through this conversion process. While this is simply not true, you can also obtain EPA and DHA from algae like spirulina and chlorella, which boast a host of other nutritional benefits such as a complete amino acid profile, high protein, potassium, and iron. The Omega-6 fatty acid Linoleic Acid (LA) has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties and other disease-fighting benefits. It is very uncommon for a diet to be low in LA, since foods high in LA are quite common (green leafy vegetables, seeds, nuts, grains, and vegetable oils (corn, safflower, soybean, cottonseed, sesame, sunflower). While we seek to obtain our omegas in our every day diets, it is crucial that we obtain them in the correct ratio, so our bodies can seamlessly convert them. The RDA for Omega-3 is 1.6 g/day for adult males and 1.1 g/day for adult females. Our bodies make DHA and EPA from Omega-3; however Omega-6 inhibits the conversion of Omega-3 into DHA and EPA. Therefore, some of the more popular omega rich foods like walnuts (2,542mg Omega-3 but 10,666 Omega-6), oats (173 mg Omega-3 but 3781 mg Omega-6) or sesame seeds (105mg Omega-3 but 5,984mg Omega-6) might not be the best sources for conversion into DHA and EPA. By all means, you should continue enjoying walnuts and sesame seeds; however, also enjoy these foods, which are higher in Omega-3’s and lower in Omega-6’s, and are more easily converted by your body into DHA and EPA.
9 Sources of Good Fats
Flax Seeds: 6388 mg per 1 oz.
Chia Seeds: 4915 mg per 1 oz.
Hemp Seeds: 1100 mg per 1 oz.
Mustard Oil: 826 mg per 1 tbsp.
Spirulina: 58 mg per tbsp.
(aside from chlorella, it is also the only vegan source containing DHA and EPA, which means our bodies don’t have to make it)
Spinach: 352 mg per cup cooked
Blueberries: 174 mg per 1 cup
Wild Rice: 156 mg per 1 cup cooked
Winter Squash: 338 mg per 1 cup cooked
It is conclusive that a vegan diet rich in good fats will reduce or nearly eliminate your risk for most diseases. A wonderful way to abide by this is to combine high omega foods with foods high in monounsaturated fats for at least one meal per day. A spinach and kale salad with blueberries chia dressing, sprinkled with some crushed almonds or walnuts is a wonderful combination. Oatmeal with ground flaxseed and/or chia seeds mixed in, topped with blueberries and hemp seeds is wonderful. Don’t forget to check out this creative guacamole recipe!
Super Green Guacamole
1 tbsp spirulina powder
2 large collard leaves, center rib removed and torn into pieces
Handful of chopped cilantro
1 large clove of garlic, chopped
2 tbsp chopped onion
Juice from 1/2 lime
Himalayan Pink Sea Salt to taste
Scoop out the insides of your avocados. Chop half of an avocado into small chunks and set aside. Drop the other 1 1/2 avocados into the container of your bullet blender (or regular blender/food processor) along with the remainder of your ingredients. Blend. Fold in the avocado chunks and serve with veggies and tortillas or pita chips.
For more information on good fats in a plant based diet, as well as how to obtain them, Michael Greger, M.D. has several wonderful video series on these topics.
After reading this, how are you going to change your diet? We wanna hear from you! Leave a comment below 🙂
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