Saturday, 2 January 2016

Healthy fats - sources, benefits and beware....

Low fat and non-fat food options often come with a hidden 'added extra' - extra salt, sweeteners and a whole lot of sugar. Just take a look below:

The hidden calories in your meals

Fats are not the enemy, they are essential to life, and many, such as omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids, cannot be synthesised by the human body and must be eaten in food for the body to function properly. As these fatty acids are not saturated with hydrogen atoms (and contain more than one double bond between the atoms) they are called 'polyunsaturated fatty acids ' (PUFAs). Most PUFAs are of plant and fatty fish origin.

Health benefits of essential fatty acids:

Both linoleic (omega-6) and linolenic acids (omega-3) are building blocks of brain lipids. Therefore, they are absolutely essential for normal foetal and infant brain as well as body growth, and development of visual acuity.

These fats along with other fat-soluble vitamins like vitamin-A are required by the body for maintenance of healthy skin and mucus membranes.

Fats with good omega-6 to omega-3 profile has been proven to reduce LDL or bad cholesterol and rise HDL or good-cholesterol levels; thus, helps to prevent coronary heart disease (CHD) and stroke episodes.

Omega-3 fats reduce pro-inflammatory prostaglandins and leukotrienes in the body. Their deficiency may result in co-morbid conditions like dyslexia (difficulty in reading), dysgraphia (difficulty in writing) and attention deficit-hyperactivity disease (ADHD) in children.

Sources of essential fats

  • Olive oil
  • Soybean oil
  • Legumes/pulses
  • Wide variety of nuts and seeds
  • Spinach/kale and many dark green leafy vegetables
  • Fruits; like Kiwifruit
  • Organic hen's eggs
  • Fish
However, taking all this wonderful good news into account, we must still be mindful of portions sizes, as they still contain high amounts of calories and will cause weight gain if eaten excessively. So here is a guide to portion sizes and calorie content for you to keep in mind when snacking:

Nuts - One handful of plain nuts provides around 150-170 kcal dependant on the nuts
Seeds - One handful provides around 120-140 kcal dependant on the seed
Oily fish - portion size around 100g can provide around 120-180 kcal depnedant on how it's cooked - grill, steam or poach wherever possible
Eggs - 1 large egg can provide around 70-90 kcal depending on whether it is boiled, poached, or fried
Oils - one tablespoon can provide 120 kcal, it is pure fat, so be mindful how much you use in your cooking


Breakfast - Peanut Butter Smoothie
You can substitute peanut butter with any of the different nut butter now available in the shops. They give your smoothie a fantastic smooth and rich taste, keep you fuller for longer and aid absorption of fat soluble vitamins found in your fruits in your smoothie.

1 banana
Two tablespoons of berries - I use frozen to keep costs down
200ml skimmed milk
1 tablespoons of peanut butter

Pop all the ingredients into a blender and whizz up to make a smooth delicous breakfast smoothie - containing healthy fats, carbhoydrates and two portions of your five a day!

Lunch - Chargrilled Tuna with oregano oil, peas and beans

For the oregano oil
1 small bunch of fresh oregano or marjoram, leaves picked
Juice of 1 lemon
olive oil

For the tuna, beans and peas
4 handfuls of podded peas
2 handfuls of podded broad beans
80 ml best-quality extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
1 small bunch of fresh mint, leaves picked
Juice of 1 lemon
4 x 200g tuna steaks, from sustainable sources, ask your fishmonger, cut 1cm thick

To make your oregano oil, pound the oregano with a good pinch of sea salt in a pestle and mortar until you have a paste. Add the lemon juice and 4 tablespoons of olive oil and stir until you have a good drizzling consistency.

Bring a large pan of water to the boil, add your peas and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, then remove them with a slotted spoon or sieve. Add the broad beans to the pan and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, depending on their size. Drain and leave to cool, then pinch the skins off any big beans (you can leave the skin on any small or medium ones).

To dress the peas and beans you want the same balance of acid and oil as you would have in a salad dressing. So, put the olive oil and a good pinch of salt and pepper into a large bowl. Chop up most of the mint and throw it in, add the peas and beans and mix everything around. Add lemon juice to taste. You can serve the dressed peas and beans hot or at room temperature.

Heat a griddle pan or barbecue until hot, season your tuna steaks with salt and pepper and pat with some of the oregano oil. Place in the pan and sear for 1 to 2 minutes on each side. Personally, I like to keep my tuna a little pink in the middle as this tastes much nicer, but if you’re going to cook it through please don’t nuke it.

Tear the tuna into 2 or 3 pieces and toss in a large bowl with the rest of the oregano oil. This will give you a lovely combination of flavours. Serve the fish immediately with the peas and broad beans scattered with the rest of the mint leaves.

Dinner - Salmon and Soya Bean Salad

1 large omega-3 rich egg
200g frozen soya beans, defrosted
zest and juice 1 lemon
2 tbsp flax seed oil (we used granoVita)
250g pouch Puy lentils
small bunch spring onions, sliced

2 poached salmon fillets, skin removed

Salmon & soya bean salad

Put the egg in a pan, cover with cold water and bring to the boil. Cook for 4 mins (or 8 for hard-boiled), adding soya beans to the pan for the final minute, then drain and run under cold water to cool. Shell and cut egg into 6 wedges, then set aside.

Mix the lemon juice and zest with the oil, season, then stir through the soya beans, lentils and spring onions.

Divide between 2 plates, then gently break the salmon into large flakes and put on top of the lentils along with the egg. Try it with seeded brown bread.