Last month we reviewed a few basics on dietary fat. I explained where the conventional wisdom on fat is wrong (“avoid saturated fat and consume more vegetable oil!”,) and where it is right (“consume more omega-3 and avoid trans-fat like the plague”).
In this month’s column I’m going to give you 11 easy ways to get more good fat in your diet. Incorporate these tips into a low-sugar, low-starch diet, and you’ll be on your way to better health!
- Eat sardines. This “health food in a can” is easy to find anywhere, portable, and goes well with so many things. Empty a can over a green salad and you’ve got a superb high-protein meal. One 3-ounce can contains 840 mg of combined EPA-DHA (the most studied omega-3s). That's nearly a gram and far more than you typically get in capsules.
- Get tuna in olive oil, not water. While many people buy tuna in water to avoid the fat (and calories), avoiding the fat means losing a bit of the omega-3s in the tuna. Better to get tuna packed in olive oil—yes there are a few more calories but it tastes way better, preserves more of the omega-3s, and as an added bonus, gives you some heart-healthy monounsaturated fat to boot.
- Take fish oil supplements. With the introduction of the award-winning Omega Swirls by Barlean’s, there’s no reason to ever avoid fish oil supplements because of the taste, consistency or “repeating” problem. Omega swirls are high quality omega-3s in a fruity compote that has been specially designed for high absorbability. They come in an assortment of delicious flavors (mango peach, pina colada) and in both fish oil and flaxseed oil versions. Use daily!
- Use extra virgin olive oil. There are two great things in olive oil: the monounsaturated fat and the olive phenols. Phenols are delicate plant compounds that have extraordinary health benefits—and they are pretty much destroyed by high heat. Extra virgin olive oil is pressed without the use of chemicals or high heat so the phenols aren’t destroyed by processing. (Note: There’s a lot of fake extra virgin olive oils around, often at nosebleed prices. A real “find” is Cobram Estates, an authentic extra-virgin olive oil which is around 10 bucks and available everywhere. It’s the best olive oil I ever tasted. You’re welcome.)
- Use real butter on your veggies. Despite what you’ve heard, butter is anything but a “bad” fat. Most of the fat in butter is actually monounsaturated (the same kind found in olive oil and nuts), and the part that is saturated is no big deal. Try to find organic butter so there’s no residue of the antibiotics, steroids and hormones found in factory-farmed cows. My favorite way to use it: Make a huge plate of steamed or stir-fried veggies and season with melted butter and seasoning.
- Stop using no-fat yogurt. In fact, stop using no-fat anything. The no-fat versions are invariably loaded with sugar and all you’re doing is eliminating a macronutrient that helps keep you full satiated. Sure you save a few calories, but better to save them by cutting out sugar and desserts! Enjoy full (or low-) fat versions of foods like yogurt and milk. New research actually shows that dairy fat has some excellent health benefits!
- Eat the whole egg! Egg-white omelets are so 1980’s—not to mention completely unnecessary. The yolk of the egg contains great fat, but more importantly, nutrients like choline (for the brain) and lutein and zeaxanthin (for the eyes). What’s more, the whole carotenoid family (beta-carotene, etc.) is far better absorbed with fat, one reason why hard-boiled eggs on a spinach salad make so much sense. Bodybuilders have been fortifying their protein shakes with whole (raw) eggs since bodybuilding began! And if you use free-range eggs, the risk of salmonella is so small that it’s insignificant.
- Try ghee. Ghee is simply clarified butter, and it’s used extensively in Ayruvedic medicine. You can make it yourself or buy it premade. Try it in place of any other fat for stir-frying, flavor or anything else.
- Try Coconut oil!! This superfood used to be out of favor for its saturated fat content, but now even mainstream experts like Dr. Oz endorse it. Coconut oil contains fatty acids that are anti-viral and anti-microbial, making it great for the immune system. The fats in coconut oil are known as MCTs (medium chain triglycerides), which tend to be burned for energy (as opposed to stored around your hips and butt.). I recommend Barlean’s Extra-Virgin Organic Coconut Oil. It’s also one of the best oils for stir-frying. Try using it to stir-fry veggies, or mix with butter or olive oil to scramble eggs. You can also add a spoonful to a smoothie—just be aware that it adds an extra 100 calories.
- Have an Avocado snack. I’ll frequently cut an avocado in half and have it for a snack or mini-meal. (Sometimes I’ll even eat the whole avocado.) It’s not as high calorie as you might think, and contains not only monounsaturated fat, but a decent helping of fiber as well!
- Sprinkle flaxseeds or chia seeds on salads, smoothies and vegetables. (And use the oils as well!) Ground flaxseed (like Forti-Flax) is an easy and ideal way to get more omega-3s in your system. So is sprinkling on some black chia seeds, easily available these days online. They’re both great and they both provide fiber. Just sprinkle on cooked veggies or a tossed salad, or add to any smoothie. And while we’re at it, have a look at Chia seed oil—it’s a plant-based omega-3 oil that actually has a higher smoke point than flaxseed oil, so you could cook at low temperatures with it in addition to using it as a salad oil or a drizzle.
Fat Reference Guide*:
4 oz wild Coho salmon: contains 8 oz fat
Omega-Swirl: one serving contains 720 mg of combined EPA-DHA
Avocado (Florida): ½ avocado contains 6.5 grams of monounsaturated fat
Avocado (California): ½ avocado contains 11 grams of monounsaturated fat
Full-fat yogurt (8 oz) contains 8 grams of fat
Low-fat yogurt (8 oz) contains 4 grams of fat
Macadamia nuts (1 oz) contains 21 grams of fat (mostly monounsaturated)
Flaxmeal (Forti-Flax) 2 tbsp. contains 3000 mg of ALA (plant based omega-3)
* data from http://nutritiondata.self.com/