Fats - they've been both the villains and the heroes in the world of nutrition. For years, fats were pointed fingers at for contributing to obesity and heart issues. The prevailing wisdom was to keep a low-fat diet for optimal health. However, as the nutritional landscape evolved, so did our understanding of fats. The rise of low-carb, high-fat diets like keto has shown that fats aren't necessarily the enemy. In reality, achieving a harmonious balance of fats, proteins, and carbohydrates, the three essential macronutrients, is key to a well-rounded diet.
Fats play a pivotal role in maintaining the proper functioning of organs, supporting skin and hair health, and aiding the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins. Moreover, fats have an amazing ability to elevate the taste of foods, enhancing aromas and flavours while delivering that irresistible creamy texture. After all, who can resist the allure of a perfectly crafted dish?
However, not all fats are created equal, and the distinction between healthy and unhealthy fats is essential to understand.
Cracking the Code: Deciphering Healthy and Unhealthy Fats
In the world of dietary fats, three primary types stand out: unsaturated, saturated, and trans fats - often referred to as the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Unsaturated fats are hailed as the healthy fats. These fats have been linked to reducing LDL (bad) cholesterol, promoting gut and heart health, and even aiding in weight loss.
Saturated fats, on the other hand, have long been considered the villains, raising concerns about bad cholesterol levels and the risk of cardiovascular diseases. However, newer research has presented a more neutral view, suggesting that saturated fats might not be as detrimental as previously believed.
Trans fats naturally occur in certain animal products and are also artificially added to hydrogenated vegetable oils. These fats are best avoided due to their double-edged sword nature: they raise LDL (bad cholesterol) and lower HDL (good cholesterol), increasing the risk of heart issues, strokes, obesity, and type 2 diabetes.
Embracing Plant-Power: Top 7 Sources of Healthy Fats
The British Dietetic Association recommends a daily intake of fats for adults, highlighting their importance in a balanced diet. When we envision dietary fats, images of cheese, butter, and fatty meats often spring to mind. If you're transitioning to a vegan lifestyle, ensuring a sufficient intake of fats from plant-based sources might seem like a challenge. Fret not, as we've assembled a list of the top 7 vegan foods brimming with healthy fats to meet your dietary needs.
1. Avocado: Creamy and Nutrient-Packed Goodness
Avocado isn't just a delicious treat; it's a nutritional powerhouse. Comprising 77% fat, primarily monounsaturated fat, avocados offer a substantial 21 grams of fat per medium-sized fruit. This creamy delight doesn't stop at healthy fats; it's also rich in potassium, boasting twice as much as a banana. Versatility is its forte – enjoy it atop toast, blended into a smoothie, or featured in a mouthwatering dish like lotus root infused with a zesty peanut and coconut sauce.
2. Nuts: Nature's Bounty of Healthy Fats
Nuts are a vegan diet's best friend when it comes to healthy fats. Walnuts, almonds, pistachios, and pecans stand out due to their unsaturated fat content, along with omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. While brazil nuts and cashews also provide fats, they contain a higher proportion of saturated fats. Incorporating nuts into your diet is a wise move, whether you snack on them as is or indulge in the creamy delight of nut butter.
3. Chia Seeds: Tiny Powerhouses of Omega-3s
Among the array of nutritious seeds, chia seeds deserve a spot in the superfood hall of fame. Just two tablespoons of these tiny wonders pack around 8.5 grams of fat, predominantly in the form of omega-3 fatty acids. These essential fats, crucial for bodily functions, cannot be produced by our bodies and must be sourced from our diets. While fatty fish is often hailed as the omega-3 hero, chia seeds offer a fantastic plant-based alternative.
4. Coconut: Saturated Fats with a Twist
Coconut and coconut oil might raise eyebrows due to their saturated fat content. However, unlike many saturated fat sources, coconuts provide medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs). The liver easily breaks down MCTs, converting them into energy or ketones. These MCTs can help curb hunger, ensuring you feel satiated for longer periods and potentially reducing overall calorie intake. From coconut-infused dishes to fragrant coconut oil, there's no shortage of ways to enjoy this tropical delight.
5. Extra Virgin Olive Oil: Liquid Gold for Health
Extra Virgin Olive Oil, fondly known as EVOO, holds a special place in the hearts of health enthusiasts. Packed with polyunsaturated omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids, a single tablespoon boasts 14 grams of fat. A staggering 73% of these fats consist of monounsaturated oleic acid, which studies suggest has anti-inflammatory properties and potential heart benefits. Its high smoke point also makes it an excellent choice for cooking.
6. Dark Chocolate: Indulgence with a Dash of Nutrition
Indulgence meets nutrition with dark chocolate - particularly those with a cocoa concentration of 70% or higher. In a 30g bar of this delectable treat, you'll find around 11 grams of fat. Dark chocolate not only contributes plant-based fats but also serves up a generous dose of antioxidants, iron, magnesium, and manganese. Studies even hint that regular consumption might be linked to lower stress levels, a win-win for chocolate lovers.
7. Flaxseeds: Omega-3 Rich Crunch
Flaxseeds shine as one of the most abundant plant-based sources of omega-3 fatty acids. A mere tablespoon of flaxseeds delivers around 1.8 grams of omega-3s, satisfying a significant portion of your daily requirement. Whether blended into smoothies, added to granola bars, or sprinkled over morning oats, flaxseeds bring a wholesome, delicious crunch to your meals.
In Conclusion: Fats – A World of Flavour and Wellness
Fats have come a long way from being the scapegoat of health concerns to being recognised as essential components of a balanced diet. The key lies in choosing the right fats – those brimming with health benefits – to support your well-being. The top 7 plant-based sources highlighted here offer an array of options to elevate your diet's fat content while embracing delightful flavours and textures. So, whether you're a seasoned vegan or just venturing into the world of plant-based eating, rest assured that a diverse palette of healthy fats awaits to nourish your body and please your taste buds.
Root Kitchen vegan meals have been nutritionally designed with the goal of having low saturated fats, my personal favourites are the delicious vegan lasagne or the equally as tasty vegan moussaka from our original menu. Why don't you let us know your favourite vegan healthy sources by sliding into our DMs on insta @rootkitchenuk.