We’ve been conditioned to associate the word “fat” with “unhealthy”. We’re on such a fat-free or low-fat craze, influenced to buy any label that showcases these terms. We build diets around them. We can be tempted into overeating, simply because it’s “fat-free” or “low fat”.
At the risk of being the bearer of bad news, this is one of the greatest nutrition misconceptions. It must be emphasized that when something comes out, something must go in. When fat is removed something else must take its place in order for the food to still taste good. This usually comes in the form of sugars, salt and other additives. In the long-term, you could be better off with the fat instead.
Bottom line? Be very cautious of fat-free and low fat foods, unless they’re naturally so.
In addition, we need certain fats for optimal health. There are ‘good’ fats out there that protect our heart and brain, are good for our emotional health, keep our skin radiant, help us stay energized and even help us to lose weight. That’s right, we need certain fats to stay lean.
Not all fat is created equal. Read on to learn about good fat vs bad fat.
‘Bad’ Fat (Saturated and Trans)
‘Bad fat’ can basically be labeled as saturated fat and trans fat. Saturated fats are primarily found in animal products, such as red meat and dairy products, especially in most cheese. Saturated fats aren’t so harmful for you if you consume these fats in small doses. However, too much saturated fat will spike your cholesterol levels.
Trans fat can come in natural forms found in some animal and dairy products, or in artificial forms, becoming hydrogenated fats. These are the fats you want to stay clear of, often found in most processed and packaged foods, frozen foods, fried foods, and desserts.
Why? These bad fats can put you at greater risk in raising your cholesterol, therefore, increasing your risk of heart disease and diabetes, as well as obesity. These fats can even lower our ‘good’ cholesterol.
‘Good’ Fat (Monounsaturated and Polyunsaturated)
As mentioned before, the good fats are essential to our wellbeing. Unsaturated fat is considered a good fat and comes in the form of monounsaturated fat and polyunsaturated fat. These fats are in liquid form at room temperature, while saturated fats are in solid form.
Monounsaturated fats raise good cholesterol and lower bad cholesterol, doing our hearts a great service. Nuts, seeds,olive oil and avocados are good sources of this fat. Avocados are packed with nutrients and vitamins, and like olive oil, contain a “heart healthy” fatty acid.
Polyunsaturated fats also lower bad cholesterol, as well as give us essential fatty acids that our bodies don’t naturally produce. Omega-6 and omega-3 are two essential fats that our bodies need for vitality and that can only be gained through the food we eat.
Walnuts, flaxseed, chia seeds, and fatty fish are great sources of polyunsaturated fats. Research shows that the omega-3s from fatty fish, such as salmon, contain the strongest health benefits, and doctors recommend two weekly servings for optimal health.
These essential fatty acids are important anti-inflammatory foods, critical for our brain health, cell growth and hormone production. However, keep in mind that although we need some amount of polyunsaturated fats, we absolutely do not need a lot.
To maximize the health benefits it’s best to consume these essential fatty acids in their whole food form in order to get all of their other nutrients. For example, when you only take the oil, although still very healthy, you won’t get any of the fiber found in the whole food. Fiber is what’s going to help you to feel satisfied so you don’t overeat. This is exactly how healthy fats can help keep your waistline trim.
It’s time to shift our perspective and lose our fear about fat. Our bodies need the good fat to stay on our mental game, stay energized, keep emotionally-balanced and even lose, or at least, control our weight.