Published on: April 25, 2015
by Heather McClees for One Green Planet:
We’ve finally reached an era where we no longer fear fats, with more and more people leaving the fat-free products on the shelf and choosing real, whole food sources of fats instead. And thank goodness for that! Fats were created by nature for a purpose; they keep major systems of our body working at optimal levels and contribute to much more than just caloric weight. In fact, because of their caloric heft, healthy fats actually prevent our bodies from being sick, tired, and they prevent metabolic damage.
All in all, fats shouldn’t be feared, especially when we consider that our brains are made of 60 percent fat. Healthy fats from the earth can help keep us focused, optimize hormonal functions, prevent and treat mild depression, relieve anxiety, and when eaten in a healthy balanced diet, they help keep us from craving unhealthy foods like sugar and fats foods.
Let’s take a look at five of the most well-loved, healthiest fats that provide incredible amounts of protection and support for our brains …
One of the most popular plant-based fats of all is also one of the healthiest for us; that’s right friends, avocados are a healthy fat to embrace with open arms. Avocados are full of a type of fat known as mono-unsaturated fats (also known as MUFA) that lower the high levels of the hormone cortisol in the body which helps keep stress at bay.
MUFAs also optimize the production of serotonin, a hormone that helps prevent and treat a low mood, assists with normal sleep levels, and keeps anxiety at bay naturally. Avocados are also a natural source of poly-unsaturated fats (PUFA) in the form of omega-3 fatty acids. Omegas-3’s help boost brain health by improving the mood, and they have even been shown to protect against Alzheimer’s disease. To add to the mix, avocados contain other beneficial nutrients like vitamin B6, magnesium, and folate (vitamin B9) to help boost brain health even further.
Almonds are also a great source of mono-unsaturated fats, and they have natural amino acids that boost neurotransmitter function. The magnesium and vitamin B6 found in almonds further reduces stress, anxiety, fatigue, and enhances focus. You can enjoy almonds raw, roasted, or enjoy almond butter — whichever you prefer!
This tropical fruit is no longer seen as just a dessert; it’s now one of the most popular plant-based fats eaten by people all over the world, on different type of diets, and who have different health goals. This comes as no surprise seeing how coconuts are one of nature’s most perfect foods. Though it’s important to choose sustainable sources of coconuts whenever possible, don’t let these fruits’ high fat profile keep you away.
Coconuts are chock-full of omega-3 fatty acids, beneficial saturated fats (yes, really!), and also amino acids to build protein in the body. Coconut can improve focus, mood, energy, and even optimize metabolism. Choose between raw coconut meat, unsweetened shreds, coconut butter, coconut flour, fresh or minimally processed coconut milk, and coconut oil if you enjoy it.
Chocolate, oh how it rarely lets us down — especially when it comes to boosting our mood and heart health! Cacao is full of naturally energizing stimulants that when eaten in moderation can be incredibly beneficial to the body. It shouldn’t take the place of whole foods in the diet, but an ounce a day can provide tremendous benefits; chocolate consumption has even been linked to lower rates of heart disease and diabetes. It’s not just the natural energizing stimulants in chocolate either, but also the high amounts of magnesium.
Magnesium is one of the most powerful, overlooked nutrients when it comes to improving energy, reducing depression, and regulating certain hormones in the body. Cacao is one of the highest sources of all foods in the world, along with high amounts of mono-unsaturated fats and saturated fats in the form of medium chain triglyceride (MCT) fats. When choosing chocolate, be sure to leave those milk chocolates on the shelf and choose nutrient-dense dark chocolate (90 percent or higher cacao content) instead. Or, you can go for the best and just use raw cacao or cocoa to get the benefits of chocolate without all the excess sugar.
Walnuts are the highest source of omega-3 fatty acids from all types of nuts, and you only need a small dose of them each day to get the benefits. Just two or three walnuts is enough to boost your mood, lower your appetite thanks to their high satiety factor, and is enough to give your body a nice dose of vitamin B6 to lower anxiety at the same time. Another unique reason walnuts are so beneficial is because they lower inflammation in the body, including the brain.
Because of their anti-inflammatory benefits, they’ve been shown to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s and depression. Snack on walnuts raw, implement them into an entree, make walnut butter, or include them in a delicious dessert – the choice is yours!
Of all the plant-based fats, these five are some of the best because they offer a wide variety of different types of fats instead of just one type (omega-3′s, saturated, mono-unsaturated). But they’re certainly not the only ones that keep you healthy. Other great choices for the brain, heart, and metabolism include: olives and olive oil, cashews, peanuts (if you tolerate them), Brazil nuts, and all types of seeds including chia, sesame, pumpkin, hemp, and sunflower seeds.
Don’t deprive your brain of the wide variety of fats that the plant-based kingdom has to offer. What a delicious way to stay healthy!
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