Day 11 Kick Start 2022 Plant-Based Challenge

We are on Day 11!

So, what did you think of yesterday’s topic? Did you learn something new about protein or did it confirm what you already knew?

How do you feel today?

Today, we’ll discuss whole food sources of healthy fat.

 

We all know fats can be high in calories. There are more than twice as many calories in a gram of fat as there are in a gram of protein or carbohydrate. So, it’s easy to gain excess weight if you overdo the fat. However, fat is also essential to our health because it enables a number of bodily functions. For example, some fats are critical to brain function and to cardiovascular health. Fats can also help some important vitamins dissolve so they can be used by your body.

So, let’s take a closer look at the good, the bad, and the ugly truth about the controversial macronutrient we call fat.

The Good

Monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats are often referred to as “good” fats. Monounsaturated fats can lower LDL cholesterol levels and can help to prevent heart disease and Type 2 diabetes.

 You’ll find an abundance of monounsaturated fats in foods like nuts, seeds, avocados, olives, and nut and seed butters.

Polyunsaturated fats are essential in building cell membranes and the covering of nerves. They’re also needed for blood clotting, muscle movement, and reducing inflammation.

The two main types of polyunsaturated fats are omega-3s and omega-6s.  You can find them in whole plant foods like seeds and nuts.

The Bad

Saturated fats and trans fats are often considered “bad” fats because they’ve been implicated in the development of chronic diseases like heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, cancer, poor gut health, and other lifestyle diseases. Common sources of saturated fat include meat, eggs, dairy, palm oil, coconut oil, and processed foods.

One exception to note here is MCT oil (a component of coconut oil), which may be beneficial for healthy brain function, Alzheimer’s prevention, and weight loss — but more studies are needed here to know for sure.

The Ugly?

Trans fats increase the amount of harmful LDL cholesterol in the bloodstream and reduce the amount of beneficial HDL cholesterol. They also contribute to inflammation and insulin resistance. Trans fats have effectively been banned from foods in the US, but may still show up in smaller amounts as a component of hydrogenated or partially-hydrogenated oils.

Unfortunately, labeling laws allow food companies to round down to zero and claim “no trans fats” or “zero grams of trans fats” on their products if the amount per serving is less than half a gram. To avoid trans fats, check the ingredient list on food labels to see if there is any partially hydrogenated oil in the product. If so, you may want to steer clear.

 

More 3s, please!

Plant-based omega fatty acids are essential. They are critical to key functions of the body, and we must get them from food.

In general, omega-6s promote inflammation, while omega-3s are anti-inflammatory.

They are both important, but in the modern world, most people get too many omega-6s and not enough omega-3s. The ideal balance of omega-6s to omega-3s is somewhere between 4:1 and 1:1. However, the average person is getting 16 parts omega-6 fat for every 1 part omega-3 — or at least four times too much omega-6!

When omega-6s and omega-3s are out of balance, you may have excess inflammation in your body, which can contribute to disease. (We will look at how to reduce inflammation in another Challenge.)

The single most important thing you can do to reduce your omega-6 intake is avoid processed oils that are high in omega-6, as well as the processed foods that contain them. The top sources of omega-6 in the modern diet include sunflower, corn, and cottonseed oils.

If you want more plant-based omega-3s, instead, you can lean into ground flax seeds and chia seeds, which are the best plant-based food sources. Two especially important types of omega-3 fatty acid are EPA and DHA. If you don’t eat fish, then algae-derived EPA and DHA supplements are generally recommended.

There’s fat in all whole foods. Especially rich sources of healthy fats include chia seeds, flax seeds, avocados, hemp seeds, walnuts, olives, almonds, cashews, peanuts, and most other nuts and seeds. Wild, low-mercury fish also has an abundance of healthy fats (omega-3 fatty acids), but it comes with its own ethical and sustainability concerns.

You may want to limit your fat intake if you struggle with heart disease or Type 2 diabetes. Animal-based fats, in particular, are linked to a higher risk of both of these conditions.

If you’re going to eat oils, it’s best to treat them as a condiment rather than the main ingredient. The healthiest options are flax oil (which is super high in omega-3s but must be used raw), avocado oil, and extra-virgin olive oil (both of which are high in monounsaturated fats), and MCT oil (highly processed, but containing just the healthiest part of coconut fat).

 

TODAY’S ACTION: Eat at least a tablespoon of ground flax seeds and/or chia seeds.

Get more of the healthy omega-3s that are so abundant in flax seeds and chia seeds. Flax and chia seeds must be ground in order to be absorbed (otherwise it’s in one end, and out — undigested — the other)! To save money and enjoy maximal freshness, we recommend buying whole flax seeds and grinding them yourself (perhaps in a dedicated coffee grinder) because their oils are fragile and can degrade or turn rancid over time. You can also toss these seeds into a smoothie and grind them up that way.

You can use flax seeds in baking in place of eggs, but they provide the most nutritional benefit when ground and eaten raw.

Chia seeds can also be enjoyed raw or cooked (heat from cooking doesn’t damage their oils). If you don’t grind them, then remember to chew them very well. Chia pudding is one yummy and popular way to enjoy chia seeds — but again, chew, chew, chew!

Sesame, sunflower, and chia seeds are all rich in unsaturated plant-based fats, which have been shown to promote cardiovascular health when consumed in place of saturated and trans fats. What’s more is you’re getting loads of nutrition with every bite, including vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients. Finally, chia seeds are packed with omega-3 fatty acids, which are important for both eye and brain health. Keep in mind that seeds are super healing but also high in calories due to their plant-based fat content, so if you’re looking to lose weight, enjoy these in moderation.

 

Todays Recipe: Sunflower and Sesame Bite-Size Power Balls

These bite-sized snacks might be small but they’re mighty! Sesame seeds are jam-packed with calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus. Sunflower seeds are full of vitamin E. Not only are chia seeds one of the best sources of calcium, but they’re also high in omega-3 fatty acids. Plus, the balance of carbohydrate, protein, fat and fibre in each bite makes for a sustainable, energizing snack!

Ingredients

  • 8 dates (pitted)
  • ½ cup tahini
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract (preferably alcohol-free)
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • ⅛ tsp ginger
  • 1 pinch ground cloves
  • 1 pinch salt (optional)
  • ½ cup sesame seeds
  • ⅛ cup sunflower seeds (raw, unsalted)
  • ⅛ cup chia seeds

Directions

Add the dates, tahini, and vanilla to a food processor (alternatively you can use a handheld or immersion blender).

Blend until smooth.

Add the cinnamon, ginger, clove, and salt, if using. Blend again until spices are mixed in with the tahini mixture.

Scoop the mixture into a large bowl.

Add the sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, and chia seeds.

Stir until the seeds are coated in the tahini mixture. At this point taste for additional flavours you’d like — more cinnamon, ginger, or seeds (there should be enough room to add another ¼ cup seeds of your choice).

Line a small baking sheet with parchment paper. Spoon a tablespoon size mixture into clean hands and roll into a ball. You should get 12 to 14 1-inch diameter balls.

Freeze for 1 hour or refrigerate for 2 hours.

Keep in a closed container in the refrigerator for 7–10 days or freezer for 30 days.

 

Chef’s Notes

Substitutions

In place of chia seeds you can use flax seeds, but know that you won’t receive the omega-3 and calcium benefit since they’re not ground.

In place of sunflower seeds, try pumpkin seeds.

Which type of tahini to use

There are lots of tahini options on the market, many of which are very good. For this recipe, you’ll want a tahini that is a smooth slurry. Sometimes tahini can get clumpy (similar to natural peanut butter that gets clumpy when you don’t stir it well) and dry tahini will not work as well for this. You could also use homemade tahini if it’s creamy.

Add more goodness

Add vegan Fair Trade chocolate chips if you’d like a chocolate-tahini treat.

Add dried fruit like apricots, mango, or goji berries.

Add ¼ cup organic, dry rolled oats or quinoa puffs to the mixture for some whole grain goodness.

Storage

Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 14 days or in the freezer for up to 30 days.

 

Recipe by https://foodrevolution.org/author/nicholedandrearussert

Photo from Plant Based News and Food Revolution Network