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: Asian Inspired Stirfry

Is it just me, or is time passing by really quickly? I can’t believe that we’re almost in the middle of May! I feel like I blinked and the year is nearly half over. But, a lot of great things have been accomplished so far this year (like going to Florida for a work conference, making it through my first Bikram class after a hiatus for more than a year, and finding an awesome room mate) so really, there’s no need for me to complain.

The only real thing I have to complain about are my allergies. Those damn dandelions that grow on every inch of land in my neighbourhood are dying and thus, their white little fluffiness is flying around everywhere. Granted, since I’ve started eating better they aren’t as severe as before. Still, I wake up in the morning feeling groggy and exhausted. Sometimes it takes me a minute to remember whether or not I went out drinking the night before or not. Yeah, it’s that bad.

Today’s post isn’t about allergies or amazing trips to Florida, it’s about making a kick-ass stir fry! Last week, I shared with you a recipe for a Thai inspired stir fry and this week, I’m raising the bar with this little diddy,  an Asian inspired stir fry with homemade tereyaki sauce. You’re welcome!

Maybe even hearing the word “home made” is making you cringe. Are you conjuring up images of an old 1950’s house wife slaving away in her kitchen for hours? Don’t. This recipe is super easy and super delicious. Not only that, but you know exactly what you’re putting into your sauce.

Ginger is key for this recipe. It adds a bit of heat and just enough zing to make your mouth water for more. You can even use it as  marinade for chicken or beef. I wish I thought of that before! But it’s still amazing either way.

Ingredients – The Sauce:

  • 1/4 cup of Bragg’s Liquid Aminos
  • 1/8 cup of apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4″ piece of fresh ginger, peeled and minced (or grated)
  • 3 tbsp of agave or honey
  • 1 to 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup of water
  • 1 tsp of corn starch

Method:

Combine all of the ingredients, except for the cornstarch, in a small sauce pan.

Cook on medium heat and stir rapidly with a whisk until the mixture has boiled (about 3 minutes or so).

Then, add the cornstarch and mix it in until the liquid thickens. Voila, done!

This was so simple, it wasn’t even funny. Or was it?

Add to your stir fry or use as a marinade for meats.

For my stir fry, I used water chestnuts, carrots, broccoli, green onion and chilli flakes to add some heat. I had some leftover quinoa so I mixed that in with my stir fry. Delicious!

Enjoy!