Is fat good or bad? Last 30 or so years, we have been avoiding fatty foods for fear of cholesterol, obesity, heart disease and diabetes. Unfortunately, heart disease, obesity and diabetes have been steadily gaining momentum and we can now be sure that these nutritional recommendations were wrong. Present-day nutritionists/dietitians advocate the consumption of healthy fat to solve your weight loss problems and improve clarity of thought. Food scientists and nutritionists have even found that sugar and refined carbs are the bad ones when it comes to weight gain/ill-health due to insulin, a fat storage hormone.
Basic Building Blocks
Every individual’s body is made up of 15-30% fat and his/her brain contain 60-70% fat which clearly shows that fat is one of the most essential building blocks of our body. Fats also help in:
Human Brain is Said to be the Fattest Organ
- Cell wall formation
- Nerve coating (myelin sheaths)
- Blood-sugar stabilization
- Hormone production
- Hunger/craving control
Even studies suggest that a diet high in fat and low in carbs is better for weight loss and improvements in markers for inflammation, heart disease and blood sugar compared to a low fat, high carb diet plan. By fats, we do not mean any fats and don’t be excited that you can thrive on juicy burgers, crispy fries and yummy chicken lollipops. There are good fats and bad fats. While the good fats can help you lose weight, become healthier and stay energized, the bad fats can elevate your risk of heart disease, diabetes, dementia and inflammation.
The Good Fats
The best fats are monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs), omega-3s and medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs).
MUFAs: Almonds, walnuts, avocados and olives (including olive oil) help increase good cholesterol and decrease bad cholesterol which can help protect you from heart disease. Always ensure to choose extra-virgin olive oil, those bottled in dark glass and go for the ones that have a recent manufacturing date.
Omega-3s: Our body does not produce these essential fats. There are three kinds of omega-3s-EPA, DHA and ALA-each serving a different purpose. The EPA serves for a healthy heart, DHA helps to improve communication between nerves and ALA gets converted into EPA and DHA. ALA is not less important, but it is required to focus more on EPA and DHA. Fatty fish such as salmon, Pacific halibut, tuna, sardines, herring, mackerel and trout are good animal sources while seaweed, walnuts, flax and chia seeds are good plant sources of omega-3s.
The Bad Fats
Trans Fats: When liquid fats such as vegetable oil are turned into solid fats they result in the production of trans fats. Increased inflammation and production of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) by these trans fats increase the risk of heart disease. It is no great deal to find trans fats in foods. They are present in everything right from commercially prepared baked goods, fried foods to many other items in the supermarket shelves.
Omega-6 Fatty Acids: These again elevate the chances of heart disease, obesity, weight gain, thyroid, hormone imbalances and inflammation. Vegetable oils such as sunflower, corn, safflower and vegetable blends are rich in these omega-6 fats.
Butter was cited to be bad for health and heart until recently. But, latest studies have included butter in the healthy category due to the presence of butyrate, a short-chain fatty acid that helps to reduce inflammation.
One thing is certain-fats are good for health. It all boils down to the question of how much fats to eat, what kind of fats to eat and when to include the fats? These are dependent on a person’s discretion. If you require help in planning your dietary fat intake, you can get in touch with a nutritionist/dietitian at www.firsteatright.com who can help you plan your fat intake as a part of your balanced meal plan.