by guest blogger Chef Kathryn Rogers
Low fat diets are a thing of the past. That is, if you want to support long term brain function and optimum nutrient absorption. Is it really true, in a culture obsessed with losing weight, that eating healthy fats could actually boost your health AND support your weight loss goals?
Recent and not so recent research says “Yes!”
The notion of eating healthy fats for optimum health is nothing new. But it is a concept that has been largely misunderstood and misrepresented in diet and nutrition trends since the 1970’s. Cue the fat-free diet. However, when dieters replaced healthy fats with more carbohydrates and foods high in sugar and preservatives, they did not see the results they were hoping for. In fact, heart disease, diabetes and cancer have been on the rise ever since the advent of processed food.
In recent years, diet trendsetters have been looking back to the wisdom of prior generations to discover the best foods to eat for optimum health. The Weston A. Price Foundation is dedicated to sharing the research of nutrition pioneer Dr. Weston Price, who suggests that nutrient-dense, whole foods and the vital fat-soluble activators found exclusively in animal fats are they keys to a long and healthy life. The cornerstone of Dr. Natasha Campbell McBride’s Gut and Psychology Syndrome (GAPS) Diet, focused on removing foods that are difficult to digest and damaging to gut flora and replacing them with nutrient-dense foods to give the intestinal lining a chance to heal and seal, is healthy animal fats. And one of the seven premises of Dr. Loren Cordain’s The Paleo Diet, a now famous low-carbohydrate diet, is moderate to higher fat intake dominated by monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats with balanced Omega-3 and Omega-6 fats.
Not to mention that if you flip through your grandmother’s or great grandmother’s recipe book, you will find recipes for cookies, pastries and main courses all featuring animal fat ingredients. Turns out she was on to something!
Benefits of Eating Healthy Fats
- Healthy fats support weight loss. The body needs three macronutrients for energy: carbohydrates, protein, and fat. A gram of fat packs more than twice the energy of a gram of the other two. Fat in your diet gives you the fuel you need to burn more calories.
- Fats improve your body’s ability to absorb nutrients. Vitamins A, D, E, and K are fat-soluble, meaning that they need fats to break them down for your body to store and use in the future. Try pairing fresh or cooked vegetables with healthy fats like grass-fed butter or ghee, or fat from holistically managed animals.
- Healthy fats can sustain your energy better than sugars or carbohydrates. Most fats are broken down slowly in the gut and eventually make their way into the bloodstream as free fatty acids, which can then be used as energy and stored in fatty tissue for later use. Medium-chain triglycerides (MCT’s) are smaller than other fats, making it possible for them to pass directly into the bloodstream without needing digestion in the gut – thereby immediately available as fuel. Try starting the morning with cream or butter from grassfed cows in your coffee, or even better, add a splash of MCT-rich coconut oil as well. These can help to give you a longer-lasting morning pick-me-up, not the mention the delicious taste.
- Fats improve brain function. Specifically, an omega-3 fatty acid, DHA, has been shown to help brain functions like memory, speaking ability, and motor skills. Increasing dietary levels of omega-3s has been shown to help improve conditions such as depression, bipolar disorder, and ADHD. Fats from grass-fed, pasture-raised animals are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, making these an excellent addition to a balanced diet.
Not all Fats are Created Equal
Molecular structure and temperature are important considerations when differentiating between healthy and unhealthy fats.
- Unsaturated Fatty Acids: Consisting of both monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) and polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), they are important for health. MUFAs are found in nuts, seeds, olives, and avocadoes, while PUFAs are found in fish and seafood. MUFAs are most stable at room temperature (as they start to break down and go rancid at higher temperatures), so ideally they should be eaten in cold preparations and raw.
- Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are two PUFAs that can only be obtained through diet and are called “essential fatty acids.” Butter, ghee and grass-fed beef is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to help reduce inflammation.
- Saturated Fatty Acids: Found primarily in foods from animal sources such as meat and dairy products, like lard, grass-fed butter and cheese, they are usually solid at room temperature. Some vegetable oils such as coconut, palm kernel, and palm oil also contain saturated fat. These are more stable when heated, making them excellent choices for baking, sauteing and roasting.
- Trans Fatty Acids: Chemically processed vegetable oils, they are semisolid at room temperature and are used in some margarines, fried foods, and processed foods to enhance flavor, texture, and shelf life. Also called “partially hydrogenated” oils, they have zero reported health benefits and should be avoided.
Ready to get cooking with healthy fats?
Here’s a favorite recipe from Chef Kathryn Rogers at Vivacious Dish that incorporates healthy levels of monounsaturated and saturated fats from pastured pork, as well as grass-fed butter in the low-carb tortillas and MUFA-rich avocadoes and olive oil.
Pasture-Raised Carnitas Tacos with Low-Carb Tortillas, Citrus Coleslaw and Fresh Guacamole
- 2 lbs. pastured pork shoulder
- 2 tsp ground coriander
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 1 tsp ground black pepper
- 1 organic navel orange zested
- 1 head organic green cabbage
- 1/2 organic white onion
- 1 bunch organic green onions
- 1 bunch organic cilantro
- 1 organic tangerine, zested
- 1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 2 pasture-raised eggs
- 1 cup of full fat coconut milk
- 1 Tbsp grass-fed butter, plus more for greasing pan
- 3/4 cup tapioca flour
- 3 Tbsp coconut flour
- 1/4 tsp sea salt
- 2 organic avocados
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 organic lime
- Put pork shoulder in slow cooker and sprinkle with 1 tsp coriander, sea salt, ground pepper and orange zest. Cover and cook on low heat for 7 hours.
- While pork begins to cook, slice cabbage into thin strips. Mince white onion, thinly slice green onion and coarsely chop cilantro. Toss together in a bowl with the tangerine zest, juice of the navel orange and tangerine, along with 1 tsp coriander, apple cider vinegar, olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. Set aside to meld in refrigerator.
- When slow cook is complete, separate pork meat from liquid fat. Reserve lard and gelatin in your refrigerator for future cooking. Shred meat with a fork.
- Whisk together eggs, coconut milk and 1 Tbsp of melted butter, then stir in tapioca and coconut flours. Spread a small amount in a thin circle in a buttered skillet, then cook 1-2 minutes per side, until you have light and airy “tortillas.”
- Cut avocados in half and remove pits and skins. Sprinkle with cumin and juice of the lime, then mash until smooth.
- To serve, place carnitas inside tortilla, then top with citrus coleslaw and fresh guacamole.
Kathryn Rogers is a Conscious Chef with more than 15 years’ experience creating colorful dishes from locally sourced ingredients. She believes that food has the power to change the world – both in our own bodies through nourishing, clean ingredients that fuel whole health and in our larger community by supporting sustainable and regenerative farmers committed to improving the environment and treating workers and livestock ethically and humanely. She splits her time between San Diego, CA and Carson City, NV, where she teaches cooking classes and offers catering and private chef services. Find her recipes for deliciously vibrant living at VivaciousDish.com.
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