Fats – Friend or Foe?
Dietary fat is an essential nutrient rounding out protein and carbohydrates to maintain a healthy diet and body. However, in years past and even today, fats have a bad reputation and are often eliminated when cutting back on our food intake. We have the idea that if we eat fat, then well, we will become fat. And although too much of something is never good, we shouldn’t be too quick to demonize fat.
Your body requires fat for optimum health, not just to create the dreaded muffin top. There are good fats and bad ones in foods we eat. Let’s get to know why we need fat, the good fats from the bad ones, what they do for your health and what the ultimate good fat foods you should eat are.
Why do we even need fat, good or bad?
Fat in the body serves as a resource for stored energy, so we never have to run on empty. When we are asleep our body is still hard at work, what keeps it going? Yep, it’s fat. When we are working out intensely, sugar stores are used up rapidly and burning fat for fuel carries us to the finish line. Certain essential vitamins such as D,E,A,K require fats for proper absorption. Additionally, fat contributes to healthy brain development, healthy skin and hair, cell membrane health and insulation of organs. Without fat we’d be in poor shape from the inside out!
Good Fats vs Bad Fats
Seeing as though fat is an essential part of a healthy body, then why are we so quick to eliminate something that we need to survive? Fear of getting fat of course! But not all fats are created equally. Knowing the good fats from the bad ones and the foods they can be found in is important for a healthy body. Good fats are known as the MUFA’s (monounsaturated fats) and the PUFA’s (polyunsaturated fats, this includes omega 3’s as well).
Your MUFAs and PUFA’s are traditionally liquid at room temperature and found in foods that come from plants and fatty fish. Consuming foods that are sources of good fats have been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease, lower LDL cholesterol (the bad one), promote weight loss and weight management and reduce inflammation within the body. Therefore, as part of a healthy diet the majority of your daily fat intake should be from good fat foods.
Bad fats on the other hand are just that, bad! They include saturated and trans fats and are typically solid at room temperature. Saturated fats are found primarily in animal sources, think beef, dairy and, butter. Whereas trans fats are found in packaged foods, think baked goods, cookies, crackers, some breads, margarines, fast and fried foods. These are the fats and foods that are often over consumed and make our muffin tops. In addition, consuming these fats lead to heart disease, high cholesterol and clog arteries. As part of a healthy diet, saturated fats should be consumed conservatively and trans fats avoided altogether.
Ultimate Good Fats Food List
We need fat, but don’t label all fats bad! Clearly the good fats have several health benefits are important to a healthy diet. Reap the benefits of good fat foods by replacing foods with bad fats in your diet and kitchen with foods with good fats from my list of Ultimate Good Fats Foods for health:
– Olive oil and Olives
– Coconut Oil
– Canola, sunflower, safflower, peanut and other plant/nut based oils
– Nuts (walnuts, almonds, peanuts, cashews, brazil, pecans, hazelnuts, macadamia)
– All Natural nut butters (the kind that has the oil on the top of the jar or self ground)
– Seeds (pumpkin, sunflower, sesame)
– Flaxseed (ground or the oil)
– Chia seeds
– Fatty Fish (wild caught salmon, tuna, mackerel, herring, trout, sardines)
– Lean cuts of meats (nothing processed, heavily marbled, skin on)
– Low fat dairy
Still unsure how to design a well-balanced menu? Try a balanced diet plan, created by a dietitian!