Much like carbs, fats also get a bad rap. Some dietary fats are also good, while others are bad—and some are in the middle.
In the early ’90s, research on how dietary fat causes weight gain and heart disease was blasted out by the media. Suddenly, the grocery store shelves were crammed with processed, fat-free, but sugar-laden foods that were supposedly healthier and promoted weight loss.
Unfortunately, the media got the story about dietary fat only partially right.
Fat certainly is calorie-dense (9 calories per gram vs. 4 for carbohydrates and protein), so overeating it will cause weight gain. Some types of fat do also promote heart disease and other chronic illnesses. However, as we teach at our weight loss clinic, fat is also an essential part of a healthy diet. Here’s why:
Fat helps you absorb vitamins A, D, E & K from your diet and carries the vitamins you eat into your bloodstream to be stored for later use. Fat also helps with blood clotting, protects the nervous system, is involved in the production of essential hormones, and is a huge source of energy.
Clearly, dietary fat is an integral part of a healthy diet. The question we get asked at our weight loss clinic is, which are the best fats for long-term health?
The best type of fat to consume is plant-based polyunsaturated and monounsaturated from nuts and vegetables. Fish is also a source of good fat and contains essential Omega-3s. Since the 1960s, research has shown that people in Mediterranean countries have a low incidence of heart disease because they consume less fat from meat and more from olives and fish.
A good rule of thumb is to remember that healthy fats are usually liquid at room temperature and come from sources such as walnuts, avocados, salmon, mackerel, and tuna
Saturated fats found in red meat, cheese, and other full-fat dairy products and coconut oil are not bad per se. However, the typical American diet contains too much of this type of fat.
Studies show that a diet high in saturated fats increases total cholesterol, especially low-density lipids (LDL); this is the bad type of cholesterol. High LDL levels (above 100 mg/dl) are associated with blocked arteries in the heart—and other parts of the body.
Health professionals suggest keeping saturated fats to less than 10% of your total daily calories. For example, if you eat 1500 calories a day, no more than 150 calories should be in saturated fat. For reference, that’s about 1½ tablespoons. Most saturated fats are solid at room temperature.
The very worst type of fat to consume is artificial trans fats. Trans fats are created by taking healthy liquid fats and processing them into solid fats that will not turn rancid. This gives processed foods a longer shelf life. On a food label, it will be listed as “partially hydrogenated vegetable oil.”
Trans fats have been shown to increase inflammation in the body resulting in heart disease, strokes, and diabetes. Studies show there is no safe level of trans fat in a diet.
Typically, trans fats have been found in shortening, margarine, fried foods, and nearly all baked goods.
As of May 2019, the FDA has banned food companies from using it during the baking process, making this fat harder to find.
Always avoid this ugly type of fat.
If good vs. bad fats seem confusing, and you wonder what foods you should be consuming for weight loss and long-term health benefits, come into one of our weight loss clinics and speak to one of our healthy steps support team.
Let us help you craft a healthy lifestyle to help maintain your ultimate weight loss goal!
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