FACE IT, FOOD TASTES MUCH BETTER WITH A DOSE OF HEALTHY FAT
STORY and Photography BY Jennifer Cohen-Katz
For many of us fall means a fresh start. When the kids go back to school we get back to our workout routines and clean up our diets after summer splurges. The crisp autumn days have us yearning for comfort foods. While our digestive systems were comfort¬able with lighter foods in hot weather, a little healthy plant oil is the secret ingredient for richer fall recipes we now look forward to.
Fat is a nutrient necessary for health. Have you heard? Some fats actually offer protective benefits. The Mediterranean diet, full of healthy fats, including fish, olives and olive oils, as well as fresh fruits and vegetables, has been shown to improve cardiovascular health, help control diabetes and aid in weight loss.
Monounsaturated fats improve blood cholesterol levels, which can decrease the risk of heart disease. They may also improve insulin levels and blood sugar control, helpful for those with type 2 diabetes. Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of polyunsaturated fatty acid that helps lower cholesterol levels and support heart health. These fatty acids may also help protect against Alzheimer’s disease and dementia and slow the memory loss linked to aging. The key is to limit saturated fats, which are found in red meat and dairy products. Though recent studies have found that they may not be as dangerous as they were once believed to be, healthy oils still have more than twice the calories of protein or carbohydrates, so it’s best to stick to the types that are proven to help our health.
The science behind healthy fats will be slow to make an impact as we recover from the fat free food boom of the 80’s and 90’s, but those in-the-know have already been getting creative with avocados, coconut oil and all types of nuts and seeds. Let’s breathe a sigh of relief because food just tastes so much better with a little fat in it. I race to the bottom of a salad tossed with my favorite walnut oil vinaigrette dressing, nibble heaps of roasted Brussels sprouts tossed in olive oil and lick the chocolate pudding bowl clean if it’s made with avocados.
Consider including foods with these fats, in moderation, to your autumn menu. If you need some culinary inspiration, search for healthy cooking classes at Howard Community College, through Howard County Recreation & Parks, or at one of the food-focused stores at The Mall in Columbia.
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