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Instead of Low Fat, Eat Healthy Fat (and Lower Your Risk of Cancer and Heart Disease)

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Remember the low-fat fad diets of the 1980-90s? Many consumers thought that they could eat all of the fat free cookies, snacks and treats they wanted since it was considered “healthy” to avoid dietary fat. Little did we know then that certain dietary fats are good for us and can help prevent cancer, chronic disease and manage weight. Your body needs fat to function and survive. While some fat is beneficial for your body, it is important to choose the right types of fat. This article will help guide you towards those healthy kinds of fats.

The Skinny on Fats

Fats are separated into two types: saturated and unsaturated. Saturated fats are solid at room temperature and have been linked to heart disease and high cholesterol. Common forms of saturated fat include animal fats, eggs, butter and milk fats. While saturated fats have not been shown to directly cause cancer, red meat and processed meats have high levels of these unhealthy fats and have been shown to increase the risk of colorectal and stomach cancers.

On the other hand, unsaturated fats are beneficial for your heart. They are liquid at room temperature and can help lower cholesterol. Foods that contain unsaturated fats include olive oil, nuts and nut butters, avocadoes and fatty fish. Adjust your habits to include more unsaturated fats and replace saturated fats like butter with healthier unsaturated fats like canola and olive oil.  

What about trans fats? These fats were developed when processed foods became a mainstay in our grocery stores. Unlike saturated and unsaturated fats, trans fats are not made by nature. If you see the word “hydrogenated” on the ingredient list, this means the product contains trans fats. It is recommended to avoid trans fats, as their impact on health may be just as bad as saturated fats. 

Adapting your saturated fat intake does not have to mean a complete diet overhaul. Aim for small changes to your daily routine to include more healthy unsaturated fats. Here are some ways to improve your dietary fat intake:

Go Meatless

You do not have to become a vegetarian or vegan to reap the benefits of a meatless lifestyle.  Meatless meals are naturally lower in saturated fat because the animal fat is replaced with healthier plant sources. Aim to reduce your meat intake a couple nights per week by swapping out beans or tofu for chicken or beef. Whole grains are also a great source of protein that can be paired with vegetables for a hearty and healthy lunch or dinner. Vegetables, such as avocado and olives, are full of unsaturated fats and are the perfect additions to your meatless meal!

Eat More Fish

Fish is a lean protein source and very low in fat. Some fish, however, are highest in heart healthy fats, such as Omega 3 fatty acids. Omega 3s have been shown to reduce inflammation that can cause heart disease. Research has also shown that it could decrease your risk of developing cancer. Fish that are high in Omega 3s are considered “fatty” fish; some examples include salmon, tuna, sardines and mackerel. Along with your meatless meals, add fish to your meal plan at least 1-2 times per week to fill your meals with more healthy fats.

Use Olive Oil Instead of Butter

Olive oil, a staple in the Mediterranean diet, is high in unsaturated fats, specifically monounsaturated fat. It is a great replacement for butter, when possible, which contains saturated fat. While margarine may seem like a healthier alternative, it is important to avoid margarines containing hydrogenated oils, which consist of trans fats. When sautéing vegetables or meats, and when baking, choose olive oil over butter and margarine, and you will still get a rich and delicious flavor. If the flavor of olive oil is too overpowering, choose a more neutral-flavored healthy oil such as canola oil instead.

Choose Low-Fat or Skim Milk (or Almond Milk)

Dairy products are another source of unhealthy saturated fats. While milk products can be good sources of calcium and protein in your diet, it is important to choose low fat or skim dairy to reduce saturated fat intake. This is important not only for milk, but also yogurt, cheeses and cottage cheese. If you don’t prefer milk, almond or soy milk are good options that are lower in fat and calories, but typically have the same amount of calcium and vitamin D that milk has.  

Putting it Into Practice

Breakfast is a great way to start the day, so make it meatless for extra benefits! The recipe below provides you with adequate protein to keep you full until lunch, as well as healthy fats and fiber. Instead of bacon or sausage, which are high in saturated fats, avocado and olive oil are great additions to this recipe for including healthy fats at breakfast! 

Bull’s Eye Avocado Eggs

Serves 2

Ingredients:

1 large ripe avocado

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon olive oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

  1. Cut the avocado in half, remove the pit, and scoop out enough of the flesh to accommodate an entire egg in each hollowed-out peel.
  2. Remove a small portion of the outer peel of each avocado half so it sits straight when you set it on a cutting board.
  3. Crack and separate the eggs, placing the yolks in two individual ramekins or small cups and both whites together in a small bowl.
  4. Heat the olive oil in a lidded skillet over medium-high heat.
  5. Add the avocado shells, flesh side down, and sear them, uncovered, for about 30 seconds, or until slightly golden.
  6. Flip the avocado shells over and fill the cavities almost to the top with the egg whites.
  7. Lower the heat to medium-low, put the lid on, and cook for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the egg whites have turned from clear to white and are almost set.
  8. Carefully slide the yolks over the whites and continue cooking for 3 to 5 minutes, or until the yolks are cooked all the way through.
  9. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and serve.

Excerpted from The Meals to Heal Cookbook by Susan Bratton and Jessica Iannotta, MS, RD, CSO, CDN. Copyright © 2016. Available from Da Capo Lifelong Books an imprint of Perseus Books, LLC, a subsidiary of Hachette Book Group, Inc.

Dietary fats can be very healthy and nourishing, as long as you are eating the right type.  Incorporating more fish, olive oil, nuts, avocado and low fat dairy or dairy alternatives are great ways to lower your risk for heart disease and cancer and improve your overall health. There is no need to fear all fats. Use the tips above to help you be more mindful of the best sources of dietary fat and achieve a more balanced and healthy diet.

 

 

If you enjoyed this recipe there are plenty more in our Meals to Heal Cookbook–written to meet the unique needs of cancer patients and caregivers and offering 150 recipes to make eating less stressful, more convenient, and simply more enjoyable. Created by oncology-credentialed registered dietitians, these delicious, nourishing, easy-to-prepare dishes are full of the nutrients you need to maintain strength during treatment. Loaded with essential nutrition info and recipes coded by common symptoms and side effects (including fatigue, nausea, digestive issues, mouth sores, taste and smell aversion, and others).

 

Susan Bratton 

Founder and Chief Executive Officer 

Susan founded Savor Health in 2011 after a career on Wall Street where she represented and focused exclusively on early and growth stage healthcare services and insurance companies. During her tenure on Wall Street, Susan was a member of the healthcare groups at firms including Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette, Robertson Stephens and Wasserstein, Perella & Co.

Susan brings to Savor Health over 25 years of industry experience in healthcare and business as well as expertise in strategy, finance and management. She is actively involved in a number of industry associations including Women Business Leaders in Healthcare. She also serves on the Advisory Board of HCap, the national leading venue for healthcare providers and capital to meet and is the Secretary for Amagansett Citizens Advisory Committee. In addition to her role as CEO of Savor Health, Susan speaks nationally on the role of proper nutrition in the cancer patient at industry association meetings as well as advocacy group summits and other oncology meetings.

Her work in oncology extends beyond Savor Health and speaking on the role of nutrition to her volunteer work at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in pediatrics and as a runner for Fred’s Team to raise money for research at Memorial Sloan Kettering. Susan earned a B.A. from Duke University and M.B.A. from the University of Virginia’s Darden Graduate School of Business.

 

Jessica A. lannotta

MS, RD, CSO, CDN, Chief Operating Officer

Jessica is a registered dietitian and certified specialist in oncology nutrition (CSO). She studied nutrition at Cornell University and completed her dietetic internship at New York Presbyterian Weill Cornell Medical Center. She obtained her Master’s degree through the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. Jessica has worked in inpatient and outpatient oncology settings since 2001 in the North Shore-LIJ Health System. Jessica is in charge of all operations, including clinical and culinary operations ranging from menu development to evidence-based website content, relationships with registered dietitians and social workers and developing processes and protocols for intake, management and outcomes analysis of patients.

 

Savor Health is a trusted cancer nutrition expert that patients, caregivers and healthcare enterprises rely on for safe, effective and evidence-based nutrition information and programs. Savor Health is working to put an end to the one third of cancer deaths due to severe malnutrition by providing cancer patients and survivors with individualized disease-specific nutrition solutions through nutritional counseling, menu planning, customized recipes and a 150 recipe cookbook – Meals to Heal.

To learn more about Savor Health please visit www.savorhealth.com.

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