I heard it. You heard it. We all heard it … and we all bought into it. For years, diet and health experts and doctors preached hat a low-fat diet was the gateway to health. They proclaimed fats as the enemy, linking fats to weight gain and cardiovascular disease, along with a host of other diseases. The food industry, of course, jumped as fast as it could onto the bandwagon of this ‘theory’ and bombarded us with fat-free and low-fat ‘food’ options. Ads were prolific on TV, billboards, and magazines. A walk down any supermarket aisle will confirm our obsession with fat-free foods.
But, while low-fat options exploded, so did obesity rates, as well as other related illnesses. Clearly, a low-fat diet did not deliver the promised results! You see, fat adds flavor and texture to food and so to ensure that the flavor wasn’t compromised, the food industry added sugars, salt, sweeteners, salt, flavorings, and a host of other additives. And, they created more addictive and unhealthy foods.
We now know that healthy fats DO NOT make us fat. In fact, healthy fats, carbohydrates, and protein are the three macronutrients your body NEEDS to function at optimal levels. And, truth be told, including healthy fats – in healthy proportions – help us stay slim!
WHY FATS ARE GOOD FOR YOU
Healthy fats provide essential fatty acids, which play a key role in our health by
- assisting in cellular development and the formation of cell membrane,
- supporting cardiovascular health,
- playing a key role in regulation of thyroid and adrenal activity,
- and regulating liver function and immune response.
- keep your skin and hair soft and supple,
- boost brain function,
- lubricate your joints,
- protect your nervous system and cell membranes from inflammation,
- deliver vitamins A, D, E, and K to your cells,
- and are also are a great source of energizing fuel.
So you can see, your body really can’t function without them!
THE KINDS OF FAT MAKES A DIFFERENCE!
The Bad Fats
So lets take a closer look at the different types of fats that are most commonly part of the Standard American Diet (SAD).
Saturated fats are usually solid at room temperature, such as fat from animal products like meat and dairy. These are bad saturated fat sources as they are difficult to metabolize and are loaded with cholesterol. This raises the level of cholesterol in our blood and increases levels of LDL. Cholesterol in the blood dramatically increases the risk of heart disease and stroke.
Trans fats are unsaturated fats that have been altered though the process of hydrogenation to extend their shelf life. This means the processed foods will have an extended shelf life. Ever wondered why packaged cookies are good for a year and a half? Avoid these fat at all costs as they clog arteries and are directly linked with heart disease and related illnesses. Examples of these fats include shortening, partially hydrogenated oils, and margarine. Think of commercially fried foods (French fries, fried chicken), donuts, packaged cookies, pastries, pies, cakes, muffins, candy bars, even dessert mixes, etc. Read labels!
The Good Fats
Healthy unsaturated fats, polyunsaturated or monounsaturated, play a huge role in your overall health and wellbeing. They are considered good fats because they help lower cholesterol levels, which can reduce the risk for heart disease and Type 2 Diabetes. And,
- Polyunsaturated fats provide us with essential fatty acids, essential meaning we must get them from our diet as our body does not manufacture them. These fatty acids keep your brain functioning well and aid in the healthy growth and development of your body.
- Omega-3 fatty acids, found in oily fish such as salmon, tuna, and sardines, as well as in flaxseeds, chia seeds, and walnuts, are central to reducing inflammation and heart disease. It’s always best to get your omega 3’s from food, but supplement if needed. Most people get too much omega-6 fatty acids, which are found in vegetable oils and margarine – yikes!
- Monounsaturated fats are found in peanut butter, nuts and nut butters, olive oil, sesame oil, and avocado. These fats can help fight belly fat. And, just a couple tablespoons of olive oil a day can raise your HDL and help protect against heart disease.
Plant-sourced saturated fats. There are also other sources of saturated fat that come from plants such as palm oil and coconut oil. New research shows, however, that coconut oil, because it is plant-based and does not contain cholesterol, can be metabolized by the body faster than animal based fats, and is rarely stored as fat.
FOOD IS SUPPOSED TO TASTE GOOD – FAT MATTERS!
For good health and a balanced diet, it is important to get your fats from both polyunsaturated and monounsaturated sources.
Keep in mind though, that even the good fats should be eaten in moderation. All fats are calorie dense at 9 calories a gram, so expert guidelines suggest that 20-35 percent of your daily calories come from fat, with no more that 10% coming from saturated fats. It’s also interesting to note that when you decrease the amount of unhealthy fats from your diet, your need for added salt decreases too!
Remember, the next time you are in the supermarket and spot a fat-free or low-fat label on a food item, see it as a red flag and your cue to reach for the healthy fats!