Healthy Fats for Healthy Mind and Body
Dietary fat is often demonized by weight loss enthusiasts and those who consider it to be the primary force in the propagation of the unsavory health conditions that are paralyzing our nation. However, obtaining the appropriate amount of fat is integral for the proper function of the human body and is an essential component in any diet developed with wellbeing in mind. Understandably, attempting to eat well while accommodating these two contradictory ideas can create a lot of confusion and is liable to impair our ability to make the best food choices for our health.
This dietary fat dichotomy is exactly why I am proposing a new way to approach eating that will eliminate the necessity to follow any of the almost algorithmic diets that go to great lengths to make our food experience as unpleasant as possible.
I believe that if we simply focus on eating only the highest quality foods that contain the best varieties of fat and almost completely disregard the urge to quantify our consumption by counting grams or calories, we will be able to receive the full benefit of our food without gaining weight or risking ill health. Eating this way will accommodate our body’s biological need and allow us feel more satisfied with our food choices. And, when we have fully developed an awareness of our body’s satiety signals, we will know when to stop eating and wont feel the urge to overeat or indulge food cravings.
Once we commit to this new way of life, all that’s left to do is identify the best foods available and work on developing a mindfulness that will allow us to respond appropriately to our body’s signals.
I have found that the best, most readily available sources of healthy mono- and polyunsaturated fat are nuts, avocados and salmon. Why these specific foods? First, nuts have been shown to have a positive effect on several cardiovascular disease risk factors while contributing to satiety and weight loss when observing a calorically restrictive diet. Next, the consumption of avocados has been directly linked to diet quality, nutrient intake and a reduced risk of metabolic syndrome. Finally, salmon is rich in omega-3 essential fatty acids, which are vital in cell healthy and cognitive function and whose consumption has been found to greatly reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. To top it all off, all of these are an incredibly tasty and readily available regardless season or geography.
Unfortunately, developing the awareness necessary for a mindful practice may require a little more work. However, asking ourselves a few simple questions may help us develop the food-body connection that is necessary for the this whole idea to work. I have found that if I can answer these questions satisfactorily, I am usually okay to eat whatever it is that I am considering:
- Am I truly hungry right now?
- Could this feeling be the result of thirst or boredom?
- Will this food serve my body and dietary goals?
- Will I regret eating this food later?
- When was the last time I used the restroom?
This last question may seem a little out of place, but my condition is heavily dependent upon bowel regularity and I am liable to do all sorts of crazy things if my system gets even slightly out of whack. Another good indicator that something is missing is if I notice any unusual eating behavior (insatiable food cravings, binges, snacking shortly after meals, or waking up hungry). When binges or cravings occur, it is typically a signal that something is missing from my diet and it is, more often than not, the handful of almonds left off of my morning oatmeal or the my lunch burrito neglected the creamy goodness of avocado.
The other side of eating high quality foods and fats is reducing all the unhealthy, nutrient deficient foods that work against our dietary ambitions. Avoiding foods that are laden with the sugar, unhealthy fats (saturated and trans), chemicals and preservatives that may contribute to ill health and disease is an unavoidable truth in any healthy diet. I wouldn’t dare say that this is an all-or-nothing proposition, because doing so has caused some of my greatest setbacks, but indulging in moderation is key to eating mindfully.
I know that all of these suggestions may seem a little vague, but I believe that there is no definitive ‘best diet’ and it would be almost impossible to give specific recommendations that would work for everyone. I believe that the only way to develop a mindful diet is by ‘experimenting’ with healthy foods and finding which foods work best for us in the current circumstance. We are the only ones who know what is best for us and we must exercise our best judgment when developing a healthy eating routine.