We’ve all heard it, right? “Fat is bad, fat makes you fat, fat’ll kill you, ya know.” Well guess what, it’s all a just big FAT lie. In the world of low-fat, high carb, skim and non-fat foods we’ve been conditioned to fear this vital macronutrient. The misinformation surrounding this topic has dictated diets and our overall perception about food for years. Fat has been the villain wrongfully held responsible for obesity, cardiovascular disease, and more. So what’s the truth? The truth is fat is absolutely essential, necessary, and wildly beneficial! Eating healthy fat not only doesn’t make you fat, but is actually essential for sustainable weight loss and overall good health. How about we re-shape our thoughts on fat with these truths: eat fat get skinny, eat fat have more energy, eat fat have a healthy heart, eat fat have a happy, healthy brain.
So what exactly do good fats do for our body?
- Provide a long-burning source of energy and help slow the absorption of food for proper energy regulation. Let’s think of our energy as a fire; to keep the fire going we can add kindling or logs. In the world of food, carbohydrates and sugars are the kindling and good fats are nice, big logs of wood. I don’t know about you, but I want to keep this energy fire burning as long as possible, so fats it is!
2. They are required for the absorption of the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K and for adequate use of proteins
3. Serve as a protective lining for the organs
4. Make food taste good!
When we miss out on fats in our foods, we easily find ourselves feeling tired, moody, insatiably hungry, unable to kick cravings, and resentful over our depriving diets. Low-fat diet risks include hormone imbalances and insulin resistance commonly linked to diabetes, weight gain, gut problems, cognitive disorders and more. Fatty acids also have the ability to reduce inflammation within your body (make sure you eat your omega-3s!).
Now that we all understand why we need these yummy fats in our diet every day, let’s dive into good fats vs. bad fats. Firstly, the difference between a good fat and a bad fat is in the way it’s processed, not in the inherent nature of their source. For example, just because it’s polyunsaturated doesn’t mean it’s healthy—a polyunsaturated fat that has been hydrogenated is not healthy, but a polyunsaturated fat like wild fish oil is vital for good health. Secondly, you need a mixture of healthy fatty acids in your diet to maintain optimal health. There isn’t one magic fatty acid to provide you with all of the great benefits of this macronutrient. The key here is to have a balanced variety. Here’s one reason why: Down to the smallest unit in your body, each cell and cell wall is made up of phospholipids comprised of a variety of saturated, unsaturated, and monounsaturated fats. Fluidity or rigidity of these cells is determined by the composition of the fatty acids from which it is created. Too many polyunsaturates would make the cell walls too fluid and your body would create cholesterol to increase the rigidity of the cell. Not enough polyunsaturates and the cells become too rigid making it difficult to appropriately transfer nutrients in and out of the cell.
Now comes decision time for you…. You’re in the grocery store overwhelmed with options! Let me help you—we’re going to choose fats that are naturally occurring, minimally processed, from grass-fed animals, and organic when possible. For high temperature cooking, opt for saturated fats—the most stable fats—including coconut oil, butter, ghee, palm oil, tallow, lard. For lower temperature cooking use things like extra-virgin olive oil and avocado oil. For cold uses, reach for the unsaturated, cold-pressed avocado oil, sesame oil, and olive oil. Include foods like avocados, nuts, seeds (including nut and seed butters), chia seeds, flaxseeds, grass-fed beef, full-fat dairy, pastured eggs, wild caught fish, and fish oils. Stay as far away as possible from these oils: vegetable, corn, canola, safflower, sunflower, soybean, grapeseed, and cottonseed oils. These oils are highly processed, easily go rancid, and are unstable creating a host of problems within our bodies—especially when heated. Also beware of homogenization. This makes the fat and cholesterol more susceptible to rancidity and oxidation and things like Margarine provoke chronic high levels of cholesterol and has been linked to both heart disease and cancer.
So forget what you thought you knew—step away from the refined carbohydrates, put down the sugar and instead… pass the butter, eat the yolk, bite into that grass-fed burger, ditch your low-fat diets and nourish your body!