Monday, November 10, 2008

Habit-A-Week Challenge, Week 6: Eat Healthy Fats!

Welcome back to week 6 of the Healthy Habit-A-Week Challenge! This week, we are going to focus on adding something healthy to our diets: good fats. Some of you might be saying, "ARGHHH! I am fat enough! I need to cut fat OUT of my diet, not add fat INTO my diet!" There is even a popular diet pill that helps you lose weight by sending your ingested fats right out the other end, unabsorbed (Alli, aka Oil Slicks in Places They Should Not Be). But read on!

Dietary fats are so important to our health. According to the Mayo Clinic website:

"Your body needs fat to function properly. Besides being an energy source, fat is a nutrient used in the production of cell membranes, as well as in several hormone-like compounds called eicosanoids. These compounds help regulate blood pressure, heart rate, blood vessel constriction, blood clotting and the nervous system. In addition, dietary fat carries fat-soluble vitamins — vitamins A, D, E and K — from your food into your body. Fat also helps maintain healthy hair and skin, protects vital organs, keeps your body insulated, and provides a sense of fullness after meals."

There are two problems for the average person regarding fat intake:
1. The amount of fat ingested, and
2. The type of fat ingested.

When you eat too much fat (of any kind), you can gain weight. Fat is very calorie dense. So we should try and keep our dietary fat intake to 20-30% of our daily calories. We all know we should not eat lots of fatty foods like cookies, cakes, candy, fried foods, and chips. But cutting back on these things is just addressing *part* of the problem.

We need to be eating healthy fats instead of unhealthy ones. To help you out, here's a partial list of foods containing two categories of fats:

Bad Fats (trans fats, saturated fats, and cholesterol):
red meat, poultry, eggs
butter, whole milk, cheese
coconut oil, palm oil (in processed foods)
shortening, lard, margarine
many processed crackers, cookies, fried foods (read labels!)

Good Fats (monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, and omega-3's):
olive oil, peanut oil, canola oil
nuts (especially walnuts!)
flax seeds (ground), soybeans
salmon, halibut, tuna, or fish oil capsules

For some of the amazing benefits of omega-3's, see this Mayo Clinic article.
For tons of information about good and bad fats, I love this Medline Plus page.

The challenge for this week is not just to add a bunch of healthy fat, because even healthy fats will cause weight gain if you overindulge. So what we must do is substitute good fats for bad. Instead of sauteing your food in butter or margarine, try a small amount of olive oil. If you were having beef for dinner twice a week, try cutting back and having salmon or another fish high in omega-3's for one (or both!) of those meals. Instead of cheese or mayo on your sandwich, try a slice of avocado (or mash up some ripe avocado and use it as a spread). Instead of egg salad, how about tuna? Instead of chips for a snack, have a small portion of nuts. Try adding some ground flax seed to your smoothies or your oatmeal for added nutrition. Put some walnuts in your banana bread instead of chocolate chips. It's all about substitution. And moderation... you really need to watch your portions with ANY fat.

By eating more heart-healthy fats and less of the bad type, you will help lower your risk of heart disease and reap many other benefits.

And yes, I am back from my trip to Quaker Headquarters in Chicago! It was a really great weekend and I learned so much. I have pictures to upload and will have a post up later today or tomorrow. I also need to give an update regarding my Monthly Calorie Budget so far! But first, I need to ride my bike :)


Lynn Haraldson-Bering said...

Hey, Lyn! Thanks so much for your suggestions over on my blog about arthritis pain erasers. I will definitely give a few of them a try. I did do glucosimine for awhile and all it did was...ahem...make my pee smell (TMI, I know). But I know some people swear by it, and so I don't ever condemn the stuff. I'm curious to try the turmeric (LOVE to cook with it, too) and the tart cherry concentrate. Where do you find it?

Great healthy fats blog, my friend. Glad you had fun in Chicago. I'm so jealous. I do hope I get invited to something like that sometime with you and Jennette and Miz and the "gang." Dang, I hate being on the outside looking in :)

Lauren said...

I really like your blog and the healthy habits challenge, but I'm not going to lie, I feel a little overwhelmed. My own fault, I have so much going on right now, so I'll try to do those things, but right now I'm going to focus on my water intake again, going back to basics.

Anonymous said...

Why the gain of weight...Can you share..for us to understand our gains also?

Lyn said...

I answered on your blog :)

Back to basics is the right idea. The great thing about this challenge is it is only one small thing per week. You can go back and start over or choose a different habit anytime you want to. Small changes over time = results!

the archives of my blog are in the sidebar. I started having trouble this summer, so if you'd like you can go back and read some of the struggles I have had that led to the gain. Ups and downs are part of my journey... and many other people's as well. The important thing is never to give up, and keep working at it. The weight WILL come off :)

FatMom said...

What an awesome blog! I just found it! Very impressive AND inspirational!!

Heather said...

so glad you posted many people think fat is bad, but we actually do need the good fats. I get mine with some almonds usually. best source (and most delicious in my opinion) of good fat!

Deb said...

Yay for you making your exercise a priority!!!

Skinny Inside said...

Having been an Atkins girl for so long, I'm "shockingly unafraid of fat" But, I have been trying to cut down on butter and eat more olive oil. My only objections to your "bad" list that I really think animal fats (meats,eggs, cheese, etc) are OK in small amounts. I even think butter is healthier than margarine. And, coconut oil is actually very good for you, especially if it's unprocessed. Here's a link if you're interested:

Thanks again for doing this habit a week! I think it's great, although I'm slacking a bit...:-)

Ceres said...

Thanks for the new challenge, healthy fats are really important! Coming from Crete, I very rarely use anything but olive oil in my cooking. And lately my rule whenever I go grocery shopping is to get half a pound of fish and have that be my dinner that night. So I have fish (usually salmon) at least once a week.
I didn't do very well with last week's challenge, though. I just didn't think about speed whenever I sat down to eat, it only occurred to me later. I think I tend to eat very fast when I'm by myself, whereas when I'm engaged in a conversation, I eat much more slowly. Also, the time of day and the hunger level matter: I eat much faster in the morning and/or during other meals, when I've let myself go really hungry. I guess increased awareness of my eating speed is a good thing :-)

pish said...

Hi Lyn,
I've been reading your blog a few months now and I really like it. I wanted to comment on this post. I believe that everything except for margarine, shortening and all processed foods on the "bad fats" list are actually fats that are really good for us. They come from whole foods, which our bodies are supposed to process. They also are more stable than fats like canola and peanut oils. Check out the book "Eat Fat Lose Fat" by Sally Fallon and Dr. Mary Enig. They also have a great cookbook called "Nourishing Traditions". They are full of great info. Good luck!

Lyn said...

Skinny Inside~
Thank you for the information on coconut oil! I hope readers will check out the link and give that information some thought.

Thank you also for your insights. There are a lot of different opinions on whether or not those types of fats are healthy or harmful; I hope readers will do some research and decide what is best for their health as well.

Always nice to have more information and opinions posted! Thanks :)