In honor of National Women’s Heart Health Month, eat fat. Okay, that sounds a little unappetizing! It really isn’t. Fat carries much of the flavor in foods, and it’s an essential ingredient for good-tasting, healthy foods. In the past, weight strugglers tried to cut out all the fat in their foods – I remember friends who lost tons of weight going on a fat-free diet. They gained it all back, I would say because they were trying to follow a diet that was tasteless as well as almost impossible (although what diet isn’t almost impossible?).
Today, experts agree that we need some fat in our meals. Besides making food taste great, various components of fat are essential to health. Fat also helps slow digestion, meaning that we don’t get hungry again too soon after a meal and start foraging. You might notice this best at breakfast – when we eat fat-free meals for breakfast (cereal, skim milk, fruit, for instance), we often find ourselves hungry mid-morning. But add an egg, some peanut butter, even some butter on toast, and breakfast might last through ‘til lunch. Obviously, this can be important for healthy weights.
Currently, most recommendations focus on getting enough monounsaturated fat and omega-3 fatty acids in our meals for healthy hearts. Again, it’s fortunate that the foods that contain those types of fat taste great – olives and their oil, avocados, nuts, seeds, and fatty fish like salmon, tuna, sardines, herring, and others. There is some noise about the potential importance of certain types of saturated fat – animal fats that have been the target of heart health advocates as causing our cholesterol levels to rise. Because Americans tend to get too much saturated fat in their diets, the need to get some hasn’t gotten a lot of attention. But with the extreme diets that many weight strugglers adopt, some of us may be shorting ourselves on important saturated fats. While I think we still don’t know enough about the importance of types of fat like this in our diets, our best bet is still a balanced diet that includes a wide variety of foods.
BTW, that includes chocolate. Chocolate contains stearic acid, a type of saturated fat that doesn’t negatively affect our blood cholesterol levels. Plus, it appears chocolate also contains a type of antioxidant that can help protect against heart disease and cancer. As far as healthy weights go, in my and many others opinions, a few bites or bar of good chocolate can make all the difference when it comes to feeling satisfied with a meal.