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.

Chickpea Coconut Curry

Well, I have been slacking this week. There really isn’t any valid excuse that I can give other than I have been taking a lot more time for myself these days and honestly, I’m loving it! In January, I’ll be starting my courses at Humber to be a project manager and between that, work and my Toastmaster responsibilities, I’ll be busy. Better to enjoy some down time now!

As today is Monday, I’d like to begin, or rather, re-begin (is that a word?) my “lunch a day” for a month challenge.

Today, my leftovers were chickpea coconut curry. YUM! It was Sunday evening, I had no desire or motivation to go the store so I scrounged up whatever I had in my cupboards and fridge and I came up with this little number.

Ingredients:

  • 2 small potatoes (finely chopped)
  • 1 can of coconut milk
  • 1 ½ large tomatoes (finely chopped)
  • 1/2 an onion (minced)
  • ½ can of chickpeas
  • 2 cloves garlic (minced)
  • ¼ tsp of black pepper
  • ½ tsp coriander
  • ¼ tsp tsp thyme
  • ½ tsp curry powder
  • ½ tsp garam masala
  • ½ tsp turmeric
  • Chilli flakes to taste
  • ½ cup cooked quinoa
  • 2 tbsp of grape seed or olive oil or coconut oil (I used grape seed

This looks like a lot of ingredients, but it was SO easy to make!

Method:

  1. Cook the quinoa as directed.
  2. In a large sauce pan, pour the oil in and let it heat up. Then, add the onions and cook until they are soft. Add the black pepper, chilli flakes, coriander and thyme. Cook for a couple of minutes (until fragrant). Add the garlic and stir.
  3. Once this has simmered, add the potatoes and ¼ of the can of coconut milk and stir until simmering. Then, add the curry powder, garam masala and turmeric and stir. Let it simmer and add the other ¼ of the can of coconut milk. Cover and let simmer for a few minutes.
  4. Add the chopped tomatoes, the chicpeas and the other ¼ can of coconut milk. Let simmer for about 10 minutes.
  5. Stir the pot and add the quinoa and the rest of the coconut milk. Stir again and let simmer for about 5 minutes.

This may look kind of weird, but it was absolutely delicious and tastes even more amazing the next day.

If I could, I would have added spinach to this, but I ran out so I had to do without.  Shredded carrots would also be amazing in this too – or any other veggie that you love and cannot live without. I find that by layering the ingredients, you get a fuller flavour and a more cohesive sauce/curry.  If you don’t have quinoa, you could always skip the step and serve over brown rice.

Let me know what you think and share with me any variations that you may have tried.

Enjoy!

I’m back!

September proved to be a very hectic month both personally and professionally. When I wasn’t travelling around for work, I was working hard as the club president of my Toastmasters club, doing a 30 day running challenge with my friend and just trying to catch up on some rest.

Now that things have calmed down and the hoopla is over (for now), I’ve settled into a routine and I’m able to dedicate some time to blogging.

Over the weekend, we had some pretty disgusting weather here in Toronto. Nothing like walking around the city with an armload of groceries while gusts of wind are pushing against you. By the time I got home, I felt like I had a workout!  I was so glad to be home and relax but as soon as I unpacked a few things, I realized that I forgot dish soap and lightbulbs. Since there was enough dish soap left to wash a spoon and 2 out of 3 light bulbs in my kitchen had burnt out, I had to suck it up and get back out there. The fun never ends.

The upside? Yes, there is an upside! Now that the weather is cooler and I don’t need to strategize what time I can cook without melting (I suffered without A/C this summer), I get to bust out my skillet and crock pot and make yummy warm foods without sweating buckets in the kitchen. Like I said, the fun never ends! Stay tuned for new recipes that I’ve been working on for fall.

On Saturday, after running errands and buying groceries, I made myself a nice, veggie lunch. I just bought some Ezekiel bread (the seseame kind) so I decided that I would make myself a sandwich. Then, I realized I had some left over avocado and some cucumber, which would go perfectly.

Here it is in its finished state:

How to make:

Veggie Sandwich

Ingredients (Serves 1)

  • 2 slices of sprouted grain bread toasted (I use Ezekiel).
  • Butter
  • Pepper
  • Paprika
  • Mustard Powder
  • Goat’s Mozerella Cheese
  • Zucchini
  • Sun dried tomatoes

Method

Lightly butter the toasted bread and sprinkle the spices on the melting butter. Add a few slices of zucchini and sundried tomato and some cheese (enough to cover the veggies). Put the second slice of bread on top and broil in the oven at 350F for about 10 minutes, or until the cheese has melted. Slice in half and enjoy!

Avocado and Cucumber Salad

Ingredients (serves 1 or 2):

  • 1/3 of a cucumber (sliced into small pieces)
  • 1/2 an avocado (sliced into small pieces)
  • Garlic power
  • pepper
  • salt
  • 2 tbsp of olive oil
  • 1 tbsp of rice wine vinegar

Method

In a medium sized bowl, toss the cucumber and avocado pieces with the spices, olive oil and rice wine vinegar until coated. Then, chill in the fridge for 10 to 15 minutes (this could be done while your sandwich is heating up in the oven). Serve as a side dish or eat as a refreshing snack!

Enjoy!