Why This Nutritionist Isn’t Stressing Over (Plant-Based) Saturated Fat
I recommend all of my clients focus on simply eating more plants! I advocate including plant-based saturated fats over a diet high in animal saturated fats for ethical, environmental and health reasons. High animal protein intake and low dietary fibre can increase cardiovascular and cancer risk. This is just one of the reasons I prefer Yoggu! over dairy products. I aim to include a fermented food daily and coconut yogurt is a wonderful source of probiotics, aka live bacteria. Yoggu! is very high in fibre for yogurt thanks to agar, a soluble fibre and prebiotic- food for your bacteria. It’s important to consume both fermented foods and prebiotic rich foods for overall health.
Did you know coconut is inherently anti-fungal, antibacterial, antiviral and anti-parasitic? Yoggu! is unique as they use organic fair trade coconut cream as their first ingredient with no added gums or oils. I don't stress about including coconut based products as people have done traditionally for decades. We love to overcomplicate nutrition, but if you’re eating mainly whole foods, lots of plants and cooking at home lots, you’re probably doing pretty great.
I also don’t stress too much about quantity. I believe focusing on calories and portion sizes can over complicate and therefore take the fun out of food. We’re all different and a nutrition label with one portion size cannot apply to each person. I advocate eating until satiated, a more intuitive approach that fosters a healthy relationship with food.
Building your plate with half vegetables, ¼ non starchy vegetables, ¼ protein then adding fats is a great rule of thumb. This ensures you’re getting fibre for gut health, optimizing blood sugar dips and reducing inflammation. Having fat with our meals slows emptying so we stay full longer, sign me up!
Dietary cholesterol only contributes to roughly 20-30% of the total blood cholesterol. If you consume a very low fat diet your liver may create more cholesterol in the body. Several hormones are made from fats (and protein) so restricting healthy fats can have negative health consequences. Now that we’ve covered chemistry and nutrition 101, let’s nerd out on the power of plants!
In addition to plant-based fats, I love to include dark leafy green vegetables, other chlorophyll rich foods, apples and flax as they bind excess cholesterol in the gut. Green tea also reduces LDL cholesterol and is the perfect morning drink alongside your creamy bowl of Yoggu!, berries, cinnamon and crunchy seeds. My goal for everyone is to eat a diet full of plants, ideally 30 different ones a week for gut health! You’ll get a good dose of Vitamin C rich foods, which supports optimal cholesterol levels by decreasing LDL cholesterol and increasing the strength of the blood vessels. I advocate avoiding trans fats, hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated fats versus cutting out plant-based saturated fats.
Want to dive deeper? Keep reading!
The two big categories of fat are broken down into saturated and unsaturated fats. Unsaturated fats are often liquid at room temperature and are broken down into subcategories based on how many carbon bonds they have. Monounsaturated fats (one bond) include foods such as olive oil, avocado, almonds, hazelnut, pecans, pumpkin and sesame seeds. Polyunsaturated fats (two or more bonds) include walnuts, sunflower seeds, flax seeds, chia and seafood. But what about saturated fats? Saturated fats are found in cashews, macadamia nuts, brazil nuts, meat, dairy products and coconut products. The majority of saturated fats that people consume daily and in large quantities are found in animal foods.
Heart disease is the number one cause of death globally. That is a shocking and sad statistic, but this information can empower you to make easy swaps with your diet that have powerful impacts. Research shows having an LDL cholesterol level under 70 mg/dL will greatly reduce your chance of developing a heart attack. Plant-based diets have been shown to lower cholesterol levels as effectively as statin drugs without any negative medication side effects! This shows the power of food and benefits of eating lots of fibre and some plant-based fats.
I hope this inspires you to consume a diet rich in plants. Just remember, Yoggu! is healthy and delicious. It’s a better alternative to animal based saturated fats! No need to overhaul your diet in one day, just keep reaching for a variety of plants.
Jordan Bruce, RHN