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
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.
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
Some great plant-based fats are avocado, coconut, whole nuts and seeds, and olives.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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