I’ve always wished that I was a trend-setter but the truth is more like I am a solid trend-follower. There was that one time in junior high when I was wearing knee high socks way before everyone else at school but West Virginia is behind the times on most things so it probably did not reflect on my (lack of) coolness.
Take America’s obsession with low-fat/fat-free food. I rode the crest of that wave for as long as anyone. Back in the day (early 2000’s?) I believed that calories from fiber and protein were what would keep me lean and healthy. I knew that micro-nutrients (minerals and vitamins) were important too but I figured my veggie-dense diet would take care of that.
Fat, to me, was just a source of excess calories.
This is a bit of an exaggeration, I’ve never said “no” to avocado in my life and I knew that nuts were really healthy but when it came to dairy my cart was always fat-free. I remember the days when we’d buy an 18 carton of the cheapest eggs and I’d toss the yolks into the trash while making my 3 egg white omelet. In college I had my cholesterol tested for a class and the results were high. This thoroughly pissed me off as a vegetarian who was dancing hours on end everyday. I thought that removing as much saturated fat from my plate would make me low-fat and cholesterol-free.
Not anymore, my friends.
These days my meals are fatty affairs; full of Omega-3, lauric acid, and CLA goodness.
One thing that I’ve learned about fat that really hits home for me that, just like humans, animals “are what they eat”.
If a cow eats grass instead of grain than it is going to change the nutritional make up of it’s milk. If a chicken is able to peck and scratch and eat grass and grubs than the eggs it lays will be much more nutritious than if it ate grain. Farm-raised fish eat different than wild fish and thus the nutrients in the meat are different!
Besides a higher vitamin content in “pastured” animal foods, a big difference is in the balance of omega-3’s to omega-6’s. Both of these are essential fatty acids but the balance of 3 to 6 in the modern diet is seriously skewed, which could contribute to inflammation and a host of health issues. A modern diet provides us with too much omega-6’s but eating pastured animal food, rich in omega-3’s, can helps tip the scales back to a healthy 3-6 balance.
Back in college we used to spend like $50 a week-at the most-for the two of us to eat all the farmed salmon and cheap eggs we could. These days our grocery bills are certainly a little higher but really not that much. I pay $175 a month for health “insurance” (and I know that many people pay much more than that!) so why would I not spend a few extra dollars at the supermarket to “insure” that I am feeding myself the healthiest fats available?
My favorite fats
- chia seeds and ground flax seeds for omega-3 fatty acids, which boost anti-inflammatory properties among it’s host of benefits.
- nuts, especially Brazil nuts these days for my daily dose of Selenium.
- butter, yogurt, and milk from grass-fed cows for a healthy balance of omega-3 to omega-6, CLA, and vitamin E.
- coconut oil for lauric acid, which helps the body absorb micro-nutrients, and because coconut is anti-microbial, anti-bacterial, and high in antioxidants.
Fat is one trend that is in my life to stay.
Want to learn more? Here are some articles that lay out in more detail the differences between “good” fats and “bad”.
Grass Fed Butter Tribute on Mark’s Daily Apple
Scary Article About Factory Animal Products from Union of Concerned Scientists
Environmental Impact of Fish Farming from Time Magazine
Nutrition Differences Between Wild and Farmed Salmon from World’s Healthiest Foods
Pastured Vs. Caged Egg Nutrition from Mother Earth News (one of my favorites!)