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3 Small Shifts with a Big Impact

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Shift 2: Enjoy Healthy Fats

While some fats (namely trans fats) are bad news, virtually all the naturally occurring fats in whole foods are good for you. A lot of folks don’t realize that, though, so they’ve cut most fats out of their diets. They’ve used refined carbohydrates to fill the void and have experienced cravings, mood swings, chronic disease and weight gain as a result.

It’s now widely understood that quick-digesting carbohydrates (like those found in sugar, white bread, white rice and white pasta), not fats, are primarily to blame for obesity, heart-disease, type 2 diabetes and many of the other major health woes we face as a nation.

Are You Deficient in Healthy Fats?

“I think that because there is such a fat phobia in America, many people are actually deficient in healthy fats,” says Maggie Ward, MS, RD, LDN, nutrition director at the UltraWellness Center in Lenox, Mass.

The solution, says Ward, is to get the majority of your fats from whole foods. Snack on fat-rich nuts and seeds; slice avocado onto salads and sandwiches; enjoy clean, safe fish.

Whole-food sources of fats not only fill you up, so you’re less likely to crave that morning bagel or afternoon cookie, but they also help your body get the essential fatty acids it can’t make on its own.

Guacamole and Famous Taco Salad

Saturated fats from whole-food sources, like grass-fed meats, eggs, poultry and  coconut, when enjoyed as part of a nutritious, high-fiber, plant-rich diet, are also good for you. “Saturated fat makes up part of our cell membranes, is needed for hormone synthesis and serves as a great fuel source,” says Ward. “And like all fats, saturated fat really adds satiety to the diet and balances blood sugars.” A 2010 meta-analysis of 21 studies involving nearly 350,000 people found no significant link between saturated fat in the diet and increased risk of heart disease. Those results, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, represent a total turnaround from advice given just a few short years ago. (Learn more at “Heart News.”)

Here’s what good fats can do for you:

Control cravings. Adding a little fat to each meal or snack can help you stay full longer, and minimize the carb cravings often caused by spikes and dives in blood sugar. “Fat is what adds satiety to a meal,” says Ward. “If you have a little avocado, butter or coconut, that meal is going to stick with you a lot longer.”

Maintaining a good balance of dietary fats in the body also supports healthy metabolism, which is essential to weight loss. Try a handful of nuts in your smoothie, a dollop of full-fat yogurt on berries, or a slice of cheese with an apple.

Douse inflammation. Inflammation is at the root of a host of chronic ills, from heart disease to diabetes to certain cancers. Ironically, fat — long blamed as a contributing factor in such maladies — may actually turn out to be a significant factor in resolving them. Many experts agree that an imbalance in our fat intake (too many omega-6s from meats and vegetable oils like soybean, corn and safflower oils, and too few omega-3s) are fueling an epidemic of inflammatory diseases. “We evolved on a diet that was close to 1 to 1 (omega-6 to omega-3), and the majority of Americans are now eating closer to 20 to 1 or even 30 to 1,” says Reardon.

Regain balance by cutting the amount of vegetable oils in your diet and upping your intake of omega-3-rich fish, such as salmon, anchovies and sardines, plus fish oils and plant sources such as walnuts and flaxseeds. If you eat meat, give preference to grass-fed and organic options, which are much higher in omega-3 fatty acids.

Build your brain. Omega-3 fatty acids — DHA (Docosahexaenoic Acid), in particular– make up 20 percent of the brain’s gray matter, says Reardon. Inside the brain, our cell membranes are composed of fats that facilitate snappy cellular communication — which is why fatty-acid deficiencies are a common factor in depression, mood swings and compromised brain function.

How to Increase Omega 3s in Your Diet

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Read more: Diet & Nutrition, Food, General Health, Health

By Catherine Guthrie, Experience Life

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Experience Life magazine is an award-winning health and fitness publication that aims to empower people to live their best, most authentic lives, and challenges the conventions of hype, gimmicks and superficiality in favor of a discerning, whole-person perspective. Visit experiencelife.com to learn more and to sign up for the Experience Life newsletter, or to subscribe to the print or digital version.

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10:02AM PDT on Sep 24, 2013

Good information

4:10AM PDT on May 23, 2013

Thanks for sharing - I agree with everything except eating the fish and lean meat...I'm vegetarian and have never needed those things in my diet to be healthy!

2:06PM PST on Feb 13, 2013

been there, done that, still fat !

4:45AM PST on Jan 11, 2013

It's good to start from the simple

7:34AM PST on Dec 3, 2012

There is a Quinoa Pasta on the shelves nowdays. I have tried it many times and have yet to have a bad experience. We love it.

7:22AM PST on Nov 27, 2012

good article...thank you

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