If you haven’t heard by now, fat is your friend!
Dietary fat provides energy, supports cell maintenance, enhances nutrient absorption, and is essential for producing some hormones.
Dietary fat got a bad reputation back when, blamed for increasing rates of obesity and heart disease. Now, thanks to science and the increasing popularity of fat-containing diets, like Paleo and Keto, we know fat is an essential nutrient and a critical component of a healthy diet.
However, not all fats are created equal. Some fats come with extra health benefits and some can be harmful to your health and should be avoided all together.
One of the best ways to include healthy fats in your diet is using high quality cooking oils. When it comes to cooking, the type of cooking and amount of heat matter when selecting which oil to cook with.
In general, oils that are highly processed should be avoided. These include vegetable oil blends, like canola, soybean, sunflower, and safflower oils.
These oils undergo chemical and high heat processes during production, which often turns the oils rancid – aka full of oxidation, trans fat, and other inflammatory byproducts that aren’t best for your body.
Oils that have a low smoke point or contain a high percentage of polyunsaturated fatty acids, like walnut and flaxseed oil, shouldn’t be used for cooking. That’s because heat damages the flavor and nutrition profile of these oils and causes the formation of unhealthy free radicals.
There are a few tried and true oils that lend flavor and nutrition no matter what cooking method you’re using.
Here are the 4 healthiest oils/fats to cook with:OLIVE OIL
The monounsaturated fats found in olive oil are linked to reduced inflammation, decreased risk of heart disease, improved triglycerides and cholesterol levels, and many of the other health benefits associated with the Mediterranean diet.
Olive oil is best for low-heat cooking, such as a quick sauté or baking at 350 degrees and below. It has a low smoke point, which means high temperatures will cause olive oil to degrade, so it shouldn’t be used in high heat roasting or frying.
Extra virgin olive oil can also be used to “finish” a dish – drizzle on top of salads, soups, pastas, and vegetables.
Rich in monounsaturated fatty acids, avocado oil may also help improve cholesterol levels.
Unlike olive oil, avocado oil has a high smoke point and can be used for frying and roasting. It has a mild flavor that makes it a good choice for us in baked goods as well.
Coconut oil is a solid at room temperature and liquid oil when heated. It has a medium smoke point, making it another good choice for everything from sautés to baking. Coconut oil is a great vegan alternative to butter in baked goods.
There’s some disagreement over the health benefits of coconut oil since it’s high in saturated fat, with 12 grams per tablespoon.
High intakes of saturated fat are linked to increased risk of heart disease, but some experts say the medium-chain fatty acid found in coconut oil are not metabolized or stored the same way as saturated fat from animal products.
We do need some saturated fat in our diets, but too much can be harmful.
The bottom line? Like most things, coconut oil is fine for most people in moderation.
One word of caution - virgin coconut oil will lend a coconut aroma and flavor to whatever you cook in it. Choose refined coconut oil if you’re not a fan of coconut flavor.
GRASS-FED BUTTER OR GHEE
We’re just going to say it – you can’t beat the taste of butter.
Yes, it has saturated fat. And, just like with coconut oil, moderation is key. So is quality.
Choose grass-fed butter and ghee (clarified butter) products for an extra dose of omega-3 fats.
Butter is best used for lower heat cooking and baking. Ghee can be used for higher heat cooking, since the milk solids that are prone to browning and burning have been removed.
Using a variety of oils and fats in your cooking will help you receive the nutritional, flavor, and cooking benefits each has to offer.
Speaking of an offering...try this savory, and crunch-satisfying snack recipe! Who doesn’t LOVE good ‘ol popcorn?!
Healthline: Healthy Cooking Oils — The Ultimate Guide
Time Magazine (online): The 10 Best and Worst Oils for Your Health
Eating as mindfully as we might on vacation, for example, is not realistic for many of us, especially with work, busy families, physical routines, and all the other daily distractions.
Here are seven simple ideas to help you establish more mindful eating habits, and perhaps start to reconnect the body and mind again.
1. Tune in to your body’s signals Rather than just eating on emotional cues (different for each of us, like sadness, anger, frustration, loneliness, stress or even just boredom) we can learn to tune into and be better listeners of our body’s actual hunger signals.
For example, is your stomach growling, is your energy low, are you feeling a little lightheaded, or even ‘hangry’?
2. Put food on a...plate Too obvious? Think about this: eating out of a bag is not a very mindful practice! So, get in the habit of placing even snacks on a plate before eating them. This helps you to take notice of exactly what and how much you’re actually eating.
Also, acknowledge the time, effort and passion you put into creating your meal - consider all the ingredients, and the preparation and intention involved in getting the food from stove to plate!
3. Sit....at a table Now that you’re eating from a plate, continue “formalizing” your gastronomic experience by always sitting at a table.
This helps to pull your attention back to your food and to your eating habits. It has also been shown to dramatically reduce overeating - especially for those who tend to eat in front of the TV.
4. Absolutely, positively NO devices at the table Now that you’re sitting at a proper table, designating the first few minutes of a meal for quiet, mindful practice can be beneficial - for everyone at the table. This includes putting away the devices and turning off the TV.
5. Slo-o-o-o-w down (and chew!) Slowing down is one of the easiest, and most effective ways we can get our body + mind to coordinate in their signals of what we really need for nutritional purposes.
The body actually sends its “I’m full!” signal about 20 minutes after the brain - a little glitch in human physiology and also why it can be easy to overeat. But, if we slow down, we can give our body a chance to catch up to our brain, hear the signals properly, and eat the right amount.
Chewing more, and more slowly, is probably THE simplest and most effective way to begin developing the habit of eating mindfully.
6. Put down that fork! Putting your fork down between bites of food reinforces your enhanced chewing habit, rather than mindlessly picking at your plate or preparing to shovel in your next bite. Yet another opportunity to really taste your food!
7. Make it more difficult to feed yourself Making things more difficult is a great way to force yourself to pay attention to a more intentional act of eating - you can apply this to many areas of your life!
One way to up the challenge is to eat with your non-dominant hand. For 90% of us, that’s our left hand. While this may seem tedious to do at every meal, try it for breakfast or maybe just at snack time - or maybe at a dinner with friends for some entertainment value!
So, there you have it - seven super easy, but actionable ways you can start practicing mindfulness, especially when you’re eating. Your whole body will benefit from simply slowing down, and being more intentional and present while eating.
If you would like more Mindful Eating Resources, just leave a comment and I will get those right out to you!
Well...yes, they do really work. The fact is, science shows definite health benefits for people who use mindfulness and meditation.
Before we dive in, let’s just make sure we’re on the same page when we say “mindfulness” and “meditation.”
“Meditation” is the ancient practice of connecting the body and mind to become more self-aware and present. It’s often used to calm the mind, ease stress, and relax the body.
Practicing “mindfulness” is one of the most popular ways to meditate. It’s defined as “paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally.”
Mindfulness meditation is well studied in terms of its health benefits. I’m going to talk about a few of them below, and refer to it as “mindfulness” for the rest of the post.
The link between mindfulness and health = stress reduction
Have you heard the staggering statistics on how many doctors' visits are due to stress? Seventy-five to ninety percent!
So, if you ask me, it makes a ton of sense that anything that can reduce stress can reduce health issues too.
Mindfulness reduces inflammation, reduces levels of the stress hormone cortisol, and improves sleep. All of these can have massive effects on your physical and mental health.
I'll briefly go over the research in three main areas: mood, weight, and gut health. But know that the research on the health benefits of mindfulness is branching into many other exciting new areas too.
Mindfulness for mood
The most immediate health benefit of mindfulness is improved mood.
In one study, people who took an 8-week mindfulness program had greater improvement in symptoms according to the “Hamilton Anxiety Scale.” They were compared with people who took a stress management program that did not include mindfulness. It seems that the mindfulness training was key to lowering symptoms.
Other studies show that mindfulness has similar effects as antidepressant medications for some people with mild to moderate symptoms of depression.
While mindfulness isn’t a full-fledged cure, it can certainly help to improve moods.
Mindfulness for weight
Studies show that people who use mind-body practices, including mindfulness, have lower BMIs (Body Mass Indices).
How can this be?
One way mindfulness is linked with lower weight is due to stress-reduction. Mindfulness can reduce stress-related and emotional overeating. It can also help reduce cravings and binge eating.
Another way it can work for weight is due to "mindful eating." Mindful eating is a "non-judgmental awareness of physical and emotional sensations associated with eating." It's the practice of being more aware of food and the eating process. It's listening more deeply to how hungry and full you actually are. It's not allowing yourself to be distracted with other things while you're eating, like what's on TV or your smartphone.
People with higher mindfulness scores also reported smaller serving sizes of energy-dense foods. So it seems that more mindful eating = less junk.
Mindfulness about food and eating can have some great benefits for your weight.
Mindfulness for gut health
Recent studies show a link between stress, stress hormones, and changes in gut microbes (your friendly bacteria and other critters that help your digestion).In theory, mindfulness-based stress reduction could be a way to help prevent negative changes in the gut's microbes.
Also, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) seems to be linked with both stress and problems with gut microbes. In one study, people with IBS who received mindfulness training showed greater reductions in IBS symptoms than the group who received standard medical care.
The research here is just starting to show us the important link between stress, gut health, and how mindfulness can help.
Science is confirming some amazing health benefits of the ancient practice of mindfulness meditation. For moods, weight, gut health, and more.
Do you regularly include it in your life? If so, have you seen benefits? If not, would you consider trying it?
Let me know in the comments below.
Recipe (Relaxing Teas): Relaxing Herbal Teas
There are many relaxing herbal teas that would be great after meditation.
Try any of these by steeping in boiling water:
●Green tea (has a bit of caffeine, or you can choose decaffeinated green tea)
●White tea (also has a bit of caffeine, or you can choose decaffeinated white tea)
●Peppermint tea (or steep fresh peppermint leaves)
●Ginger tea (or steep slices of real ginger)
Serve & enjoy!
Tip: You can add a touch of honey if desired.
BONUS Guided Meditation “Recipes” (videos, apps & podcasts)
How to Meditate video
How to Meditate in One Minute or Less Every Day video
Headspace App (free 10-day trial)
Daily Meditation Podcast
Hay House Meditations Podcast