Eat More Healthy Fats

The seventh Healthy Habits challenge: Fear not these fats: learn how to add heart-healthy mono- and polyunsaturated fats to your diet.

Healthy Habits Hero: Daphne Oz

Taste buds, rejoice! This month is all about fat: good-for-you, delicious, heart-healthy fat. By: Kate Meyers

Daphne Oz

Daphne Oz, Author (Relish, The Dorm Room Diet) and cohost of ABC's The Chew, New York, NY

Photo: ABC/Craig Sjodin

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Fat lives a double life. It can be your friend, adding flavor, pleasing texture, and satisfying richnessw to foods. And some fats, chiefly the poly- or monounsaturated kinds—found in plant-based foods, fish, nuts, and most oils—help your body absorb nutrients and actually lower cholesterol. But fats can also be a problem. All varieties contain more than double the calories per gram of protein or carbohydrates. Too much of the saturated stuff also clogs arteries. The less said about artificial trans fats, the better.

Fat phobia is over; fat nuance is in. The goal these days is to incorporate more of the good fats and less of the bad into all meal planning, cooking, and snacking. Here you'll find easy opportunities to swap in good fats while lowering your sat fat intake.

It's hard to think of a healthier environment than the one in which Daphne Oz grew up. Her large extended family—especially her relationship-expert mom, Lisa, and her famous heart surgeon dad, Mehmet—offered a wealth of love, encouragement, and healthful eating. Oz was born in 1986, at the height of fat demonization in America, when people were replacing fats with starchy, refined carbs. Her parents didn't buy into the trend: "We didn't have a lot of unhealthy foods in my house," Oz says. "I was eating the same foods as my family. Problem was, I was eating them in unlimited quantities. Even healthy foods can be too much if you're not aware of how much you're consuming."

When Oz found herself around unhealthy foods, outside her parents' purview, the temptation was overwhelming. Fat-free products were a big part of what became a fad-diet phase. Despite being involved in several varsity sports, she found herself in a fat trap: 30 pounds overweight and unhappy before college.

It was then that something clicked for Oz—she realized she had to change her viewpoint on eating, specifically on fat: "I had to get my head around the idea that nothing is off-limits. I wanted to create a lifestyle where everything I want to eat, I can have," she says. "As soon as I got to this healthy, happy way of eating, real fat in manageable quantities came back into my life in a big way." Oz dropped the excess weight and has continued to maintain a healthy, exuberant lifestyle with a focus on eating all foods—especially fats—in moderation. Here she offers her tips for enjoying more good-for-you fats.

DAPHNE'S TOP 3 TIPS FOR INCORPORATING HEALTHY FATS

  • Get a boost at breakfast: "I start every day with a dose of good fat in my smoothie. It not only carries a lot of flavor, but it also helps to fill me up and balance my blood sugar. I may add some almond butter or even some whole almonds to frozen fruit. Other days, I might add a scoop of chia seeds. They have a ton of omega-3 fatty acids [a type of polyunsaturated fat]. That's just a great way to kick off your day."
  • Make your own salad dressing: "I use olive oil and maybe a touch of some other kind of oil for flavoring. If it's an Asian dressing, I use a little bit of sesame oil. If it's a lighter salad, I use macadamia oil or walnut oil. For my salad dressing, I start with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, add 4 to 5 tablespoons of vinegar or a splash of orange juice, some Dijon mustard or a squeeze of honey, and maybe some grated garlic to flavor the oil. Add a splash of soy sauce or plain old salt and some herbs, if you want, and then whisk all that together."
  • Go cuckoo for coconut: Long avoided because of its high saturated fat content (it has 12 grams per tablespoon, versus 7 per tablespoon for butter), coconut oil is getting a second look from health-conscious eaters. Research suggests the type of saturated fat in coconut oil (called medium-chain fatty acids) may boost thyroid function, protect against infections, and promote weight loss. "Coconut oil and I are best friends. I use it anywhere I would use butter. I use it in my baking recipes. I use it to sauté vegetables for Asian stir-fries. It's even great on toast," Oz says. "Buy the organic, unfiltered raw form. The more processed the oil, the fewer nutrients you get. Plus, the more processed, the less flavor."

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