We were told for years that fat was bad and a low-fat, high carbohydrate diet was the “heart-healthy” way to go. Turns out this could have been flawed advice. As people aimed to cut saturated fat, they replaced that fat with carbohydrate, most often, refined carbohydrate in the form of flour, sugar or worse, high fructose corn syrup. We now know that replacing saturated fat with a higher carbohydrate intake can increase triglycerides levels, LDL cholesterol (“bad cholesterol”), insulin resistance and reduce HDL cholesterol (“good cholesterol”).
So does that mean we should dive into a pot of cheese fondue, have bacon for breakfast, and use butter with abandon? Well, not so fast. Not all fats are created equal. The studies showed that when saturated fat was replaced with polyunsaturated (PUFAs) or monounsaturated (MUFAs) fatty acids, LDL cholesterol levels declined, thereby reducing the risk of coronary heart disease.
One word of caution: fats remain the most energy-dense food group. For each gram of fat, there are nine calories; whereas, protein and carbohydrates contain 4 calories per gram. It’s important to watch serving sizes particularly if you are trying to lose weight.
So where can I find these PUFAs and MUFAs? Most foods with unsaturated fats contain a combination of PUFAs and MUFAs. The table below lists some rich sources:
|Nuts & Seeds||Oils||Fish||Other Sources|
|Walnuts||Olive oil||Wild salmon||Avocados|
|Almonds||Expeller-pressed organic Canola oil||Mackerel||Wheat germ|
|Peanuts||Sunflower oil||Sardines||Soy beans, edamame, tofu, tempeh|
|Nut & seed butters and oils||Shell-fish|
In light of the new studies it would be wise to think twice before you reach for the “low fat” version of your favourite foods. When fat is reduced, foods quickly become less flavourful. To compensate for this, producers will sometimes add more salt, sugar or artificial sweeteners to make up for it. We are often left with a product with the same number of calories, but with more refined carbohydrates, chemicals and sodium! This is hardly the ticket to good health.
Try transforming your own high carb mega-muffins to heart-healthy snacks with some easy substitutions:
- Substitute ½ the white flour for whole wheat (or whole spelt) flour.
- Substitute ¼ of the remaining white flour for almond flour. This will increase the unsaturated fats while reducing the refined carbohydrate
- Cut the sugar by ½ in any fruit-based muffin, eg banana walnut muffins, apple muffins, blueberry) and by a quarter in plain muffins (eg oatmeal, whole wheat, bran muffins)
- Substitute olive oil or canola oil for butter
- Use paper liner cups or use a ¼ cup measuring spoon to ensure a small sized muffin of about 200 calories. A smaller muffin will cook faster so you may have to reduce cooking time.
You can also try my own muffin recipe below. These Banana Almond Muffins are a big hit in my house. They have no added sugar, are filled with unsaturated fats and most importantly are moist and delicious. You may want to double the recipe and freeze some for easy after-school snacks.
Recipe of the Week:
½ cup ground almonds
1 ¼ cup whole spelt flour (or whole wheat flour)
1 tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
3 Tbsp olive oil
3 Tbsp Canola oil
½ tsp almond extract (can use vanilla)
¼ cup Greek yogurt (natural)
3 medium mashed bananas
Preheat oven to 400⁰F (200⁰C).
Place flour, ground almonds, soda and salt in large bowl. Stir. Make a well in the centre.
In another bowl beat the eggs and add oils. Mix the Greek yogurt, almond extract and mashed bananas into the wet batter. Pour the batter into the well and stir to combine. Do not over-stir and ignore lumps. Line muffin tin with paper muffin cups and fill ¾ full. Bake in 400⁰F (200⁰C) oven for 15-18 minutes.
Yield: 16 muffins.
Nutritional Information per muffin:
Calories: 155, Fat: 11g, Carbohydrates: 12 g, Protein 4g, Fibre 2g, Sodium 12mg
Mozaffarian D et al. Effects on Coronary Heart Disease of Increasing Polyunsaturated Fat in Place of Saturated Fat: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. PLoS Medicine. March 23 2010). http://www.plosmedicine.org/article/info:doi/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000252
Siri-Tarino PW et al. Meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies evaluating the association of saturated fat with cardiovascular disease. AJCN Am J Clin Nutr (January 13, 2010). doi:10.3945/ajcn.2009.27725. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20071648
Skeaff CM and Miller J. Dietary Fat and Coronary Heart Disease: Summary of Evidence from Prospective Cohort and Randomised Controlled Trials. Ann Nutr Metab 2009;55:173–201. DOI: 10.1159/000229002 Published online: September 15, 2009. http://www.nmsociety.org/docs/aboutfat/Skeaff-Dietary-Fat-and-Coronary-Heart-Disease.pdf