Let’s trim the fat on fat, shall we?
Everyone repeat after me, “FAT DOESN’T MAKE YOU FAT!”
Fat has always gotten a bad rap, and because of this, most banish it from their diets completely. Truth is, there are “good” and “bad” fats. Bad fats have been shown to raise LDL cholesterol and contribute to heart disease, whereas good fats can actually help lower bad cholesterol!
Fat is an essential element needed by the body, which is why it is one of the three MACROnutrients (along with protein and carbohydrates). Fat is used to insulate the body and create padding around organs. Fat is also absolutely essential for the digestion, absorption, and transportation of vitamins A, D, E, and K (the fat soluble vitamins). Fat allows us to feel fuller longer and is actually responsible for 30% of our body’s energy.
So which fat is good and which is bad? I always like to start with the bad news first!
The fats labeled as “bad” are saturated fats and trans fats. These fats are solid at room temperature and have a negative impact on your health.
Trans fat should be avoided at all costs. Examples of trans fats include fried foods, margarine, vegetable shortening, and processed snack foods. Trans fat has been linked to increasing total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol, and actually lowering HDL cholesterol (the good kind). Trans fat has also been shown to increase inflammation in the body, which can later lead to heart disease, diabetes, and stroke.
Saturated fat used to be linked to heart disease and increased risk of cardiovascular events, but more research has surfaced that this may not actually be as big of an issue as we once thought. Regardless, saturated fat should be eaten sparingly and replaced with better fats, which we will discuss later on. Examples of saturated fat include fatty cuts of beef, pork, and lamb, dark meat chicken and poultry skin, high-fat dairy foods, tropical oils such as coconut oil, and lard. So while the increase in bad cholesterol has now been shown to be lower than once thought, this could still make all the difference to someone’s health. It is recommended to compare these levels to your HDL cholesterol and work towards increasing this number for overall health.
Good fats are labeled “good” because they are good for your heart, they raise HDL good cholesterol, and can provide anti-inflammatory properties (Omega 3‘s). Good fats are liquid at room temperature and broken down into two categories: monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. The fats differ simply based on the number of double bonds they have between carbons, but we’ll keep the “science” to a minimum here.
Examples of Monounsaturated Fats:
- Olive, canola, peanut, and sesame oils
- Nuts (almonds, peanuts, macadamias, hazelnuts, pecans, cashews)
- Peanut butter
Polyunsaturated fats are known as “essential fats” because the body cannot make them itself. This means you need to get them from your diet. Polyunsaturated fats are further broken down into Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids. Both have health benefits, but Omega 3’s are touted has superior, as they have the most anti-inflammatory properties and most people do not get enough of them in their diets.
Examples of Omega 3’s:
- Flaxseed oil
- Chia seed
Examples of Omega 6’s:
- Olive, safflower, sunflower oils
- Sunflower, sesame, pumpkin seeds
- Most nuts
If you’re not a big fish eater, an Omega 3 supplement would be a great addition to your daily regimen. They are widely available, just make sure you get one from a reputable source. OCEAN brand and Nordic Naturals are good places to start.
So there you have it! The real deal with fat and why you shouldn’t eliminate it from your diet. With that said, it’s important to be mindful that 1 gram of fat contains 9kcal, which is more than double compared to protein and carbohydrates. Fat is delicious, but it is very calorically dense and adds up fast! As with anything, eat in moderation and in reference to your goals! 🙂