This post is about “good fats vs bad fats”. I have had a few people ask me about this and I hope to keep it simple and clear some fat confusion.
When it comes to consuming fats, many people are concerned with weight gain, clogged arteries, and high cholesterol. It is true that people who get little physical activity and eat a diet high in calories are going to gain weight. Keep in mind if you have little fat in your diet and if you overeat carbs, protein and/or alcohol you will gain weight, however fat can play a role in weight gain if you eat too much. It is easy to overeat fats because they lurk around in many of the foods we love. Overeating fats can increase the waistline but also overeating the wrong types of fat can increase the risk for stoke, type 2 diabetes, certain cancers, and heart disease. Choosing the right types of fats is very important in reducing the risk of developing these types of things and you just might reduce the waistline as well.
People need fats – we can’t live without them. Fats are an important part in a healthy diet because they provide essential fatty acids (such as omega 3’s & 6’s), deliver fat soluble vitamins throughout body, keep the skin soft, great source of energy, and they play an important role in proper eyesight and brain development in babies and children.
Dietary fat has 9 calories per gram. It does have more calories per gram than carbs (4) and protein (4) but you can’t equate dietary fat with body fat. Like I said earlier, you can get fat by eating carbs and protein even if you have very little fat in your diet. Excess calories from any source can promote weight gain.
Consuming the wrong types of fats can contribute to clogged arteries which can lead to a higher risk of heart attack and stroke. Also consuming a diet high in “bad” fats has been linked to certain cancers.
Ok. Let’s break it down.
Unsaturated fats should be the dominant fat in a healthy diet. The American Heart Association recommends to get 20-35% of our daily calories from fats(most Americans get 34% total fat or more daily- yikes!) There are two types of unsaturated fats.
- Monounsaturated fats have been found to help in weight loss. Yay! Olive oil, canola oil, sesame oil, avocado (my favorite), nuts such as almonds, cashews, pistachios, and peanuts(a legume) all belong to this group.
- Polyunsaturated fats have been found to lower total cholesterol and LDL . Corn, cottonseed, safflower oils, sunflower seeds and sunflower oils, flaxseed and flaxseed oils, soybeans and soybean oils, walnuts, and seafood such as salmon, trout and mackerel belong in this group.
Saturated and Trans fats are in this category.
- A high saturated fat diet is worse than dietary cholesterol when it comes to raising blood cholesterol levels. It is a risk factor for heart disease and stroke. These need to be limited to <7% of your total daily fats. Saturated fats can be found in meats, butter, cream, ice cream and other foods with animal fats. Also, highly saturated vegetable oils like coconut oil, palm and palm kernel oil and cocoa butter are unhealthy and will be found in packaged foods such as milk chocolate, cookies, crackers, snack chips etc.
- Trans fat is in a league of its own. Trans fat is man-made fat found in some margarines and packaged foods. This type of fat has been linked to certain cancers and contributes to clogged arteries. Most of the trans fat we eat is an end product of hydrogenation (process of converting oils into a firmer and tasty product with a long shelf life). This is bad stuff. It is gradually being removed from most packaged foods but is still found in some stick margarine, shortening, fast food, cookies, crackers, granola bars, and microwave popcorn. Beware! Products labeled “trans fat-free” can still have up to about 1/2 gram per serving by law. This can add up if you regularly eat packaged and processed food stuff.
There you have it. Good fats vs bad fats. Bad fats scare me so I try my best to eat wholesome foods with healthy fats. If you are having trouble choosing your fats then avoid processed packaged foods and cook whole foods with healthy fat at home. Eat lean sources of protein, low-fat dairy foods, whole grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables.
Remember your health is your wealth so pay attention to the types of fats you are consuming. It is not just about counting fat grams. Do you prepare your food at home with healthy fats? Are you concerned about your health and where it is going? Let me know, I would love to hear from ya!:)