Feeling Fat?

Fat. What is it? Should we avoid it? Why do we need it?

So many things to consider when standing in the aisles of the grocery store staring blankly at all of the “healthy” options in front of us. Now that summer is here and we are outside and more active (hopefully) and trying to shed our winter flab, I thought I’d help to demystify what are GOOD fats and what are BAD fats.

Basically, there are two type of main fats: Saturated and Unsaturated.

Saturated Fats: When the molecule in the saturated fat molecule is packed with hydrogen atoms leaving no more empty spaces for additional molecules to attach.

So basically, this fat is so dense that it  makes it very difficult for your body to break down. It’s not a good idea to consume this often (i.e. by eating lots of fast food, processed foods, etc.). Like everything in life, enjoy in moderation.

How do we obtain it? Two ways – animal and plant sources.

Animal Sources: red meat, pork, dairy fats, butter and cheese

Plant Sources: Tropical oils –> coconut oil, palm kernal oil and cocoa butter.

Using these tropical oils to cook with is a better bet than say olive oil because since they are high density fats, the nutrients in the oils will not break down. And yes, there are plenty of health benefits to the plant sourced saturated fats – but, like I said, everything in moderation! I’ll get into more of these benefits later on. Isn’t it better to get your fats from whole foods rather than chemically produced foods? That way, you know that what you are consuming has nutrients in it.

I usually scoop a  tablespoon of organic extra virgin coconut oil into my frying pan when I make a stir fry or fry up some chicken. A little goes a long way.

The second type are unsaturated fats.

Unsaturated Fats: These fat molecules have empty spaces that are not taken up by hydrogen molecules, therefore, our bodies can break these fats down much easier.  There are two types: Mono-unsaturated and Poly-unsaturated fats. In order for them to maintain their nutrients, it’s best to only heat them slightly or not at all (i.e. serve as part of a salad dressing, more on that in a minute!).

What’s the difference between Mono and Poly?

Mono-unsaturated fats: This is when the the fat molecule has one bond and two empty spaces not taken up by hydrogen molecules. That empty space is what helps absorb other nutrients that consume alongside the fat. This oil should only be heated slightly.

Sources include mainly vegetable and nut oils such as: almond, olive, peanut and canola.

Poly-unsaturated fats: This when the fat molecule has many spaces not taken up by hydrogen molecules (even more nutrients can be absorbed and this fat is even easier to break down in our bodies). Because this fat is unstable, its sources should never be heated, otherwise, it would lose all of its nutritional properties. Not good for business and really, quite pointless since you’ve spent the money and time preparing your food just to have it be devoid of any health benefits. Cooking fail.

There are 2 types of poly-unsaturated fats: Omega-3 and Omega-6 known as Essential Fatty Acids or EFAs.

Why are poly-unsaturated fats amazing? Well, among a whole slew of health benefits, one of the main things that they do is help control your cholesterol. They increase the “good” cholesterol (high-density lipoproteins aka HDL). HDL is responsible for carrying the cholesterol from the tissues to the liver and thus, flushing it out.  On the flip side, poly-unsaturated fats lowers your “bad” cholesterol (low-density lipoproteins aka LDL). Seems like a good trade-off.

Omega-3: This little guy  slows down the formation of blood clots in the arteries and controls your blood pressure, increases your energy, improves your learning, decreases your risk of heart disease and assists in weight loss.

Omega-6: This is one of the components in all cell membranes. In humans, it’s found in the brain and nerves. Omega-6 is needed for healthy skin, proper function of the reproductive system, to regulate blood pressure, and to promote blood clotting.

Here are some great food sources for Omega-3 and Omega-6: flax seeds, hemp seeds, almonds, walnuts, avocados, pumpkin seeds, green leafy veggies, tofu, soy beans, eggs and cold-water fish.

Now that it’s summer and you probably don’t feel like standing in front of a stove, plus you probably would rather be taking advantage of the sunshine (you know, for those 3 months we get it) then why not eat more salads? They are quick, easy and there are so many ways to get creative so that they never get dull.

Usually, for lunch, I’ll have a spinach salad with fried tofu, tuna or a hard boiled egg, some avocado, seeds, and veggies (tomatoes, carrots, cucumber or whatever else is in my fridge). Rather than buying commercial salad dressing, I make my own. This is a really simple recipe that takes me less than 3 minutes to make and it costs pennies to make.

I had this salad the other day for lunch: spinach, sprouts, quinoa, red onion, fried tofu, orange bell pepper and cucumber. Sprinkled some oregano and black pepper on it and then mixed in the dressing. Yum! So refreshing!

Ingredients:

  • Apple Cider Vinegar (organic if possible): 2 tbsps
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil (organic if possible): 2 tbsps
  • Agave or Honey: 1 tsp
  • 1 clove garlic – minced (optional)

Method:

In a small bowl or dish mix all of the ingredients and stir. Done! This serves two.

Enjoy!

Next time, I will discuss our enemy, hydrogenated fats.

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Recipe: Quinoa Patties

Looking for a way to add other grains into your diet? If you’re getting bored of rice, mix things up with quinoa (pronounced KEEN-WAH).

Some quick facts about this super grain:

  • An amino acid-rich protein (a complete protein suitable for vegans) considered to be a grain but actually part of the the leafy green family, like spinach or swiss chard (WHO KNEW?)
  • Contains the high levels of the amino lysine, essential for tissue growth and repair. Lysine is also used to treat cold sores.
  • Great source of maganese, magnesium, folate and phosporus making it useful in combatting migrains, diabetes and atherosclerosis

Did you know that you can purchase quinoa all year round? Find it at either at your local health food store or in the health food section of your grocery store.

This week, I wanted to make something different but not too complicated. With a little digging on the interwebs, I found this recipe.

This was simple enough and one of the only quinoa patty recipes I’ve found that doesn’t require me to purchase a dehydrator (more on that later).

*** I made mine bite sized. Though it took a little bit more time to cook, it was TOTALLY worth it.

I really like their ideas on what to pair it with.  Another treat would be goat cheese, with sliced roasted beets on top. Or avocado with a slice of tomato and some salt and pepper. Or, have it with salad and/or soup. That’s usually my fail safe option. Or you can cut up the patty and put directly on your salad or in a pita or tortilla.  I had a couple for breakfast this morning with my Vega shake. So many options!

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup quinoa, rinsed (organic if possible)
  • 2 cups water or broth
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 cup onion, finely diced
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1/4 cup flour (I like to use rice flour)
  • 1/4 cup parmigiano reggiano (parmesan), grated
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • oil for frying (olive, coconut, saffoil, grapeseed…)
* I also added some chili powder to spice it up a bit. Feel free to add any spices that you prefer!

Method

Simmer the quinoa in the water for approximately 15 minutes. By then , the liquid should be absorbed and the quinoa should be tender. When it has finsihed cooking, let it cool for a bit.

Mix the cooked quinoa with the eggs, onion, garlic, flour, parmesan, salt and pepper, adding more flour if required.

Here's the quinoa mixed with all of the ingredients.

Heat the oil in a pan over medium heat.

Spoon the mixture into the pan and form patties of any size that you desire and cook until golden brown on both sides, about 2-4 minutes per side.

The bite sized patties frying in the pan...they smelled SO good!

Set aside on paper towels to drain.

The first few that I made...I must have ate about 5 of them, you know...to make sure they came out alright 😉

 
 
 
 
Here they are, the finished product, served on top of my spinach salad!
 
 
 
 
 

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Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 25 minutes

Total Time: 30 minutes

Enjoy!

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Tell us, how do you prepare your quinoa? What is your favourite dish?

Up next…spicing it up with spices!

Detox: Day Four

What a week! I only had a three day work week but Heaven knows that it felt like at least a six day week compressed into three.  I think it was mainly because of the adjustment to the detox diet and the fact that I had four glorious days off – which meant lots of sleeping in and lounging about, then when that alarm goes off for work I had to snap back into reality and get with the program: work, errands, house work, obligations. Not complaining – but I’m glad it’s Friday!

One aspect of the detoxing that I really like is that it gives me the opportunity to just take a break and do things that I don’t normally get the opportunity to do (scratch that – allot myself the opportunity to do).  This weekend, for once in a long time, I don’t have any serious plans. No scheduled dinners or birthday parties, no events or trips out of town to make. I just get to be at home all weekend and hibernate if I want to. And I just might. I have a mountain of laundry that needs some attention and I need to organize and clean my room before I trip and break my neck. I also want to spend time to catch up on some reading that I haven’t had the energy to do lately. Mainly, I just want to catch up with myself.

But the detox does have its drawbacks. I don’t want to paint this super rosy picture that this week so far has been a breeze. Frankly, it’s been quite challenging. There’s nothing I wanted more, most mornings, than a nice cup of chai tea with soy milk. Or one of my roommates fresh (?) buns that taunt me when I open the fridge to grab some spinach for my stir fry (that I’ve had for dinner and lunch two days in a row). Or the overwhelming craving for a nice, cold, pint of beer after a long week. Instead, I came home, had a nap and went for a run. Then I rewarded myself with a spinach salad with some smoked salmon on top (the recipe is below). It was AMAZING and very satifsfying! Almost made me forget about that pint that I was so looking forward to. But, there’s light at the end of the tunnel: I’ll be finishing my detox in time to celebrate my Irish heritage on St. Paddy’s day and will hopefully be feeling a lot less sluggish and shed those few pounds that I gained over the last month. More importantly, I hope to have regained some better eating habits instead of resorting to pizza when I’m starving after work.

Here’s that spinach salad I was gloating about:

Spinach Salad with Spicy Smoked Salmon

Ingredients:

  • 2 or 3 handfuls of baby spinach
  • 8-10 baby carrots (chopped)
  • 1 slice of red onion (chopped)
  • 2 handfuls of sprouts
  • 1/4 of an avocado
  • 1/4 of lemon (juice)
  • 1 lime (juice)
  • Oregano
  • Salmon (sliced)
  • Olive oil (3 tbsps)
  • Chilli powder (1/4 tsp)
  • Black pepper (1/4 tsp)

Method:

In a large frying pan, heat the olive oil and add the spices once the oil is warm. Let the spices simmer for a minute then add the salmon. Let cook until the meat darkens. While this is cooking, grab a large bowl (you can either eat this as a meal or make it and share it with a friend).  Layer the spinach, carrots, onion, avocado and sprouts in the bowl. Squeeze the lemon slice and the lime over top of the salad. Sprinkle the dried oregano on top. Once the salmon has finished cooking, place the salmon on top of the salad and drizzle the spicy oil on the salad. Mix it all together, and voila!

Of course, you can add or replace whatever veggies you like but I found that this combination was very satisfying. Next time, I’d definitely add cucumbers and cherry tomatoes. If I weren’t detoxing, I’d add some goat cheese or feta, too. If you wanted to add some grains, you could always mix in some cooked quinoa. Why not? AND you could always replace the salmon with chicken (chopped up and fried in the same oil). Okay. I’ll stop and let you try this out for yourself.

Enjoy!