Everyone is talking about fat these days. It seems to have taken over our brains. I find that when a group of food becomes popular, the information out there gets a little overwhelming and contradictory. Eating whole food fats can be an easy addition, and I’ll guide you!
This post is all about whole food fats and how to get more in your diet. It is a relatively simple step to take, but can have great health benefits.
Whole Food vs Processed Food
What are whole food fats and what other kinds are there? As a general rule, eating whole foods of any type is a great move. Whole foods are those that are as close to their natural state as they can be.
An easy example is a tomato. It grew from the earth in that form and nothing has been done to alter this. When you eat the tomato, you are getting the maximum amount of nutrients that it contains. This is considered a whole food.
A food can quickly go from being whole to being processed. When we follow the tomato to the manufacturing plant and see that it comes out in a shiny glass jar as ketchup, that is now considered processed. When looking at the ingredient list on the jar, you may see a lot of words that you cannot say. This is a good indication that a food is no longer whole.
You can make ketchup or a tomato sauce at home with whole ingredients and it is still considered a whole food. Processed foods go through many complex processing steps and often contain preservatives, additives, artificial flavourings, and other chemicals. They are usually found in boxes, bags, or cans and have nutritional labels.
There are good processed foods out there, it just takes time to look at the ingredients to weed out the ones with more chemicals and less nutrition.
When it comes to fats, there are whole and processed as well. Processed fats include all of the oils and any foods they are present in like margarine as well as some nut butters – the ones with a long ingredient list (they should only contain the nut).
A List of Whole Food Fats
Whole food fats are rich and smooth and keep you full for a long time because they take a lot of time to go through your digestive system. They can take the sharp flavour out of a dish that is more acidic, bitter, or salty.
Some great plant-based fats are avocado, coconut, whole nuts and seeds, and olives.
Avocados are delicious additions to many dishes. They are not heat stable though and should only be used raw. I like adding avocado on top of a salad, a sauted veggie bowl, to a dressing, sauce, or smoothie to make it creamy, and you can even make a mean chocolate pudding with them.
When purchasing avocados, if you are using them immediately, make sure the skin is brown and the meat is soft. If you don’t need them for a while, you can purchase them green and let them sit on the counter to ripen.
To store a cut avocado, leave the pit in it. This slows down the oxidation process. You can do this with guacamole as well. Just throw in the pit when you have it all prepared and leave it in – no lemon juice necessary – and store in the fridge.
Whole nuts can easily be added to top off any meal as well as eaten on their own or in a homemade trail mix. They can be raw or roasted, soaked or sprouted.
Nuts produce natural chemicals that can be hard for the body to digest. To help our body out, we can soak the nuts in water. This removes the not helpful parts and leaves us with all the goodness. Soaking nuts overnight is a good general rule.
If you find that soaking nuts makes them too soft for you, you can dehydrate them to make them crunchy again. They will be different from the nuts you are used to, but this is a good alternative.
Roasting is another good option. You can flavour them how you please and then put them in the oven until they are toasted, or you can fry them in a pan. One of my favourites is almonds toasted in a pan with tamari or Bragg’s drizzled on as they cook. Toss a few of these onto your supper or have a few as a snack.
Coconut also falls under this category. Well it can be classified as a fruit, nut, or seed, so I’ll just put it here. The meat of the coconut is a whole food if you can get a whole coconut or if the shredded stuff in the bag has no added ingredients. It can be blended with water to make coconut milk or coconut butter if you don’t use water at all.
Sprinkle shredded coconut meat onto smoothies, coconut curry dishes, homemade granola, non-dairy yogurt, or as an ingredient in many types of raw bars or balls. Use coconut milk in curry, many creamy desserts, or as a base for homemade yogurt. Coconut butter can be used for making vegan fudge or flavoured with cacao or berries and used as a spread.
Whole seeds have the same kind of natural chemicals on them as do nuts, so soaking is recommended with these as well. Flaxseed and chia seeds would be the exceptions. They both get really gummy when liquid is added and they are good just ground up or whole.
Ground flaxseed is often used as an egg replacer in vegan baking because of the sticky nature of the seed once it gets wet. The ground stuff can also be sprinkled on oatmeal, salads, or in bean burgers.
I use whole flaxseeds and chia seeds in my morning smoothie, and whole chia seeds make a cool pudding when mixed with water or some type of non-dairy milk.
Other seeds can be sprinkled on top of a smoothie, salad, or any dish that you may want an added crunch. Roasting your own pumpkin seeds is one of tastiest things you can do in the fall. Combine with extra-virgin olive oil, salt, and spices, and bake at a low heat until the seeds are golden brown and crispy.
Olives are easy to store as well as use. They can be used as a topping to finish anything you want. From pizza to a burger or hummus, olives are very versatile. They can even be eaten on their own if you are a fan of that olive flavour!
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Whole food fats are a great addition to any diet. They bring in the healthy omega fatty acids and are great for your brain, heart, skin, hair, and even immunity.
One key to adding these to your diet is to aim for variety. You don’t need that 5 lb bag of almonds to get the good fat. I would recommend buying smaller amounts and then try a new kind when you need to replenish. If you need to purchase large quantities, freeze excess until you are ready to use. This will extend their shelf life.
I definitely fall into the trap of routine, but by purchasing smaller amounts of nuts and seeds, you may be more inclined to try out the less traditional types more often. This will also allow you to have the freshest items on hand at all times. Nuts and seeds do go bad and when they do, they are no longer good to eat. Save your money!
Adding a little fat to your meal will make it more filling and hearty, so get out there and buy an avocado or some olives and see how you feel.
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