Is Fat Good For Us To Eat
Nutrition seems to constantly be changing and can be confusing at times. In the past, fat has gotten a bad reputation but lately it seems like fat is good for us to eat. So which is it? The truth is our bodies need fat to function. In fact, did you know that the fattiest organ in the body is the brain? Or that the cells in your body are protected by a double layer of fat? Or that cholesterol helps make hormones and Vitamin D?
So what fats are good for us and what ones are unhealthy? In this week’s blog we are going to talk about the different types of fat, which fats are healthy vs. ones that are not, what fatty foods to eat and which to avoid, and how to incorporate eating healthy fat into your lifestyle.
Fat is an essential nutrient, meaning that our body does not make it so we need to get it through our diet. Fat helps to maintain health by absorbing vitamins and minerals. It is also essential in blood clotting and inflammation; therefore, it is important to feed your body with good fats that promote healing and anti-aging instead of eating foods that are inflammatory and promote disease.
There are four main types of fat; monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, saturated, and trans. Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are the healthiest to eat and have been shown to help you lower cholesterol, lower triglycerides, lower blood pressure which helps reduce the chances of developing heart disease. Saturated fats should be consumed in moderation and trans fat should be completely avoided.
Monounsaturated fats have a single double bonded that are usually liquid at room temperature and began to turn into a solid when chilled. Examples of monounsaturated fats include but not limited to: olive oil, canola oil, peanut oil, and sesame oil. Other examples include almonds, cashews, macadamias, peanuts, pecans, pistachios, chia seeds, avocados, and more.
Polyunsaturated fats have more than one double bond in them. Like monounsaturated fats, they too are liquid at room temperature and been to solidify when chilled. Polyunsaturated fats also help to reduce one’s risk for developing heart disease. The two major types of polyunsaturated fats include omega 3 and omega 6 essential fatty acids, which are essential for brain function. Ideally a person should have a 4:1 ratio (or lower) of Omega 6 to Omega 3. Unfortunately, in most western diets this ratio is much higher like 15:1 or 16:1. Why is this ratio important? Not only does it support brain and heart health, but the lower the ratio, the lower the risk of developing chronic disease. Examples of polyunsaturated fats include but not limited to; salmon, sardines, anchovies, snow crab, cod, tuna, mussels, broccoli rabe, spinach, flaxseeds, mangoes, olives, Brazilian nuts, pine nuts, walnuts.
Saturated fats have no double bonds and are considered unhealthy fats.These fats are usually solid at room temperature and are found in animal based products like: beef, lamb, poultry, and pork. In addition, they can also be found in cheeses, lard, ice cream, baked goods, fried foods, and palm oil. They should be limited in the diet and according to the American Heart Association (AHA) the daily intake of saturated fats should be capped at 13 grams a day if you are consuming a 2000 calories per day. Saturated fats should be limited because excessive amounts can raise your low density lipids (LDL’s) which is your “bad cholesterol.” Consuming high amounts of saturated fats can increase your risk of heart disease and stroke.
Trans fats are not found in nature. They are man made and are usually found in processed, fast and packaged foods. They prolong shelf life and give food a desirable taste. Any food that has “hydrogenated oils ” listed in the ingredient is considered a trans fat. These fats are inflammatory and increase the risk of developing obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. They should be avoided at all costs. There is no health benefit of trans fats. In the United States they are banned; however trans fats may still be present in foods if it is half a gram (or higher) per serving. Always read the ingredients and if you see “partially hydrogenated oils” then it contains trans fat.
In short, we are what we eat. Every bite of food either makes us healthy or sick so choose wisely. Moderation is key. A general nutritional guideline is to limit sugar, salt, animal fats and avoid process and fast foods. The best advice we can give when it comes to eating is to read the ingredients and look at (or ask for) the nutritional content. For optimal health, we should be consuming at least 20% of fat daily with saturated fat being less than 10%. Ideally the American Heart Association recommends no more than 6% of daily saturated fats. The remaining percentage of fats should come from mono and polyunsaturated fats. So grab some olive oil and use it on your next spinach and nut salad!