Raise your hand if you have a fear of fat. If your hand isn’t raised right now, as you sit staring at your computer/iPhone/iPad screen; you are either a) lying or b) in a crowded room and way too embarrassed to do something out of the ordinary that will make you stand out [hint: I am usually (b) by the way]. We have been so conditioned, as a society, to be overwhelmingly fearful of fat. Fat is the ultimate armageddon in a lot of lives. Exhibit A: me.
From a young age, I have been absolutely terrified of fat & gaining weight. So much so, that I resulted to starving myself and bulimia, in order to avoid ‘fat’ at all costs. Can you imagine being so afraid of something that you are willing to risk your life because of it. THAT, is how influential and powerful our society (and specifically, the messages it portrays) is on it’s members. Fat has been the focus & subject of a majority of the messages out there. Weight loss programs, gyms, food (even Mcdonald’s commercials, which makes absolutely no sense, of course), outdoor activity, yoga, sports beverages, sports marketing, clothing. Fat is more often than not the center of attention when it comes to information & marketing. The question is, why is fat so important and effective?
The reason why it is so effective in marketing is because of one word, fear. Fat has been tied with fear for decades, that it is now completely impossible to think of one without the other. When it comes to marketing and messages, conveying a message that is wired with so much emotion- is really hitting the jackpot. Are we really that easy though? Are we controlled by the messages we read? Unfortunately, more often than not the answer to that is Yes. Although I must say that things are beginning to change (ever so slightly on a global scale). Think about the whole marketing campaign against fat in food. Once the message was released that fat was bad for your health– food companies ran with it. “Low fat”, “Diet, “No Fat”, “Non-Fat”, “0% fat”. I know, from experience, that these messages became so strong that I would refuse to eat or drink something if it wasn’t “diet” or “non-fat”. At the end of the day, it didn’t actually matter what was in the food or what it was made of– just as long as it had NO fat in it. How crazy is that? I truly did not care what was in it.
An example of this is Starbucks. Most people in the world are quite familiar with Starbucks & a lot of people have their own customized drink that they get. The strength of these marketing messages around fat and it’s effects on customers can be felt in the Starbucks line whenever the barista forgets to use non-fat milk or sugar-free sweetener. This is another one of those circumstances that I know all too well myself. Before becoming a Holistic Nutritionist, back during my UBC years, I was a stressed out, overly-caffeinated university student. My go-to was a extra-hot Skinny Vanilla Latte. I can honestly say that I didn’t care about what was in the drink, as long as it was low in fat, little-to-no calories, and kept me awake. Let me repeat that in a different way– I didn’t care what was in it and how it effected my body, as long as it kept me awake and didn’t make me gain weight and get fat.
So, what’s the real deal with fat? Great question. First of all- fat is absolutely necessary for your body. Every cell in your body has a phospholipid bilayer (aka a lining of fat around it’s membrane) which is made of fat. This membrane is very important for the integrity of the cell for many reasons including the obvious, protection. Fat is also necessary for a lot of other functions of the body including: being a source of stored energy (when your body does not have any glucose readily available); mental function (part of the myelin sheath that allows neurons to fire); protection for your vital organs; promoting weight loss (thermogenesis); decreasing inflammation and pain in the body, and maintaining healthy hair & skin. Last, but most definitely not least- fat is a major constituent of some major hormones in your body & in addition is necessary for nutrient absorption (e.g., for Vitamin D and bile).
In my opinion, in regards to the current “fat” picture- there is quite a lot of transformation to take place. This is a change that will take time, though. For instance, the idea that fat is bad for you does apply to some types of fats. The “bad” fats. These are your saturated and trans fats that create things called ‘free radicals’ in your body (toxic) most especially when they are fried & deep fried (exposed to high heats). So, buying chips that are “fat-free” is not helping yourself at all.
Then there are the “good fats”. These are those fats that are ultimately doing your body a whole lot of good, of course, in moderation. Fats found in nature fit into this bracket of “good fats”. These include foods like organic avocados, coconut, nuts & seeds. When it comes to oils, they are a great source of good fat, the key is to make sure they are of high quality and have been through limited processing. Thus, vegetable oils like canola oil are not a part of this group. Oils that are bought on the shelf at the grocery store in clear bottles are not fats that you want to consume (or cook with). Organic, cold-pressed oils are what you want to be looking for. These oils have been through the least amount of processing and contain the most amount of nutritional value! The fats that you want to focus on more in regards to your diet are the monounsaturated, polyunsaturated and omega 3 fats. The exception to this are your saturated fats that are found in coconut oil.
So what are some tips, when it comes to dietary fat?
> Focus on eating monounsaturated, polyunsaturated and omega 3s for your fat supply- as always, the closer to nature the food is, chances are- the better it is for you!
> Include high quality fats in your diet (organic, first pressed cold pressed & the least amount of processing the better)
> Purchase oils & fat sources that are manufactured in absence of light, oxygen & packaged in dark, airtight bottles preventing rancidity (
> Refrigerate your fats (fats/oils are temperature sensitive, thus, when exposed to heat they can be altered which can effect their nutritional value & benefit)
> Limit/avoid trans fats and hydrogenated fats from your diet
> Local & seasonal is always a great rule of thumb with all food (e.g., if you are living in a cold climate year round, it may not make perfect sense to eat an avocado a day, everyday)
Make your own Salad Dressings!!!!
This may sound daunting, however, I promise you, it is SIMPLE! All you have to do is have the right things on hand, in your kitchen- so that you can quickly whip up a dressing in a few minutes to enjoy fresh! If you do this, you will NEVER want to eat store bought dressing again. When you think about it, a lot of these store bought dressings are being made way in advance and are sitting in boxes, in shipment & on store shelves for months (even years)! Think about how sensitive oil is to heat, light and oxygen- and then think about how much exposure it experiences from the moment of production to the moment of consumption. It is really upsetting when you think about it. Especially when you find out how easy it is to make your own version that is both DELICIOUS & NUTRITIOUS. There is really no debate.
Without further adieu, I would like to share my favorite dressing at the moment! This dressing is a winner!
- 3-4 inch fresh ginger
- 3 garlic cloves
- 2 tablespoons miso paste (chickpea or a white brown unpasteurised)
- 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoon tahini
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 2 tablespoons filtered water
- 1 tablespoon almond butter
- *optional: 1 tsp cayenne
- *optional: raw honey, maple syrup or pitted medjool date to sweeten
- Add all ingredients into your blender and blend away! Add more or less water depending on how thick you would like the consistency of your dressing.
- Massage this dressing with your greens/salad. If you are making a kale salad- really work the dressing into the salad to break down some of the fiber. Kale does a fabulous job of absorbing the dressing and creates a salad that almost ANYONE will be drooling over (I know this for fact, from experience)
One last thing! If you are wanting a simple dressing that doesn’t require a bunch of ingredients/blender– the key is a fat, an acid and some salt & the magic ratio of oil to vinegar is 3 to 1.
Fat: olive oil, tahini, avocado
Acid: Apple cider vinegar, vinegar, lemon juice, lime juice
Salt: Sea salt, dulse, miso
Mix together and enjoy! My favourite is Lemon juice, Olive oil & sea salt.