Fat has gotten a bad rep for a long time, but the truth is we need fat in our diet. Gasp! We know it may sound crazy considering that we’re trying to lose fat on our journey, but hear us out. The right healthy fats can actually improve our heart health, stabilize our blood sugars, and even improve brain function if we’re consuming the right kinds. When figuring out what fats are good or bad, keep these facts in mind:
- Not all fats are created equal. Some are made naturally while others are made by big industrial food companies. Here’s a breakdown of the good vs the bad:
- Monounsaturated fats: These are some of the most common unsaturated fats that research suggests we can help lower the bad kind of cholesterol (LDL) by raising the good kind (HDL). These rocks star fats are what make up the Mediterranean diet, and why most health organizations recognize it as the healthiest diet.
- Find them in: avocados, extra virgin olive oil, nuts, seeds, and peanut butter.
- Polysunsaturated fats: Much like their monosaturated counterparts, these fats are responsible for balancing inflammation in the body (think omega 3’s and omega 6’s), lowering bad cholesterol, as well as improving sex-hormones and joint health.
- Find them in: salmon, mackerel, sardines, walnuts, and tofu.
- Saturated fats: These are the fats that are responsible for increasing your blood cholesterol (the bad kind) and the culprit for damaging your liver. In addition, these fats can cause widespread inflammation in the body that leads to chronic disease. On the other hand, there is some new scientific evidence that suggests saturated fats might not be ALL bad. The key here is to limit saturated fats in your diet and replace them with more of the healthy fats.
- Find them in: cheese, red meat, lamb, pork, and full-fat dairy products.
- Trans fats: These are the fats that are processed in food labs, resulting in hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils. While they’re good for making products tastier and more shelf stable, they’re also infamous for raising cholesterol and have been linked to heart disease.
- Find them in: processed cakes, cookies, crackers, and bread products.
- Eating healthy fats does not cancel out eating unhealthy fats. While it would be great if throwing a handful of walnuts in your post-workout smoothie meant your body was protected from that grilled cheese sandwich you ate for lunch. It’s just not the case. While you do need fat in your diet, you should try to consume mostly the healthy kinds. Think of it as a replacement of fats in the diet, not an addition. Instead of that egg and cheese breakfast sandwich, ditch the cheese and throw in some avocado. You’ll feel fuller AND give yourself a healthy dose of good fat and fiber.
- Picking low-fat food products isn’t necessarily healthier. Okay, here’s where it might get confusing. While dairy products (think cheese, milk, and yogurt) contain higher levels of saturated fats (the unhealthy kind), getting the fat-free versions usually just replace those fats with sugar. Not ideal. Next time you find yourself purchasing dairy products, opt for low fat or the 2% – 4% version. This will ensure you have enough fat to absorb fat-soluble vitamins from your meal and stabilize your blood sugars.
Healthy fats can do wonders for our bodies and we encourage you not to shy away from them, but instead use this information to help you stay aware of the foods you’re eating and the small changes you can make to ensure your diet incorporates the right things.