For decades American dietitians have preached lower fat options. However, research has now shown that we had it wrong, fats are critical to both our health and athletic performance.
In reality fats do not make you “fat” but instead are an important source of fuel for your body with essential nutrients you need! They are a major source of energy for your body, and they help you absorb vitamins and minerals. Fats are essential to building cell membranes (the exterior of each cell) and the sheaths surrounding nerves. Fats also help reduce blood clotting, improve muscle movement, and decrease inflammation.
The stigma about fats is a skewed perception of the importance of fats. While some fats are better than others, and some should be limited, your body runs on good fats (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated). Fats to avoid or limit include industrial-made trans fats and saturated fats. Trans fats are banned in the U.S. and many other countries because they cause many negative health consequences like inflammation, which is linked to heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and other chronic conditions.
Monounsaturated and Polyunsaturated Fats – Excellent for you!
These fats are liquid at room temperature, not solid like trans fats. Monounsaturated fats are dark to gold-green, and are infused with extremely flavorful oils from plants. Think of olives, nut butters, almonds, avocados, olive oil, canola oil, sesame, or peanut oil. On the other hand, polyunsaturated fats are light and transparent oils from plant products and fish. These include seeds, fish, nuts (especially walnuts), ground flaxseed and Omega-6 oils. Consuming these fats improve blood cholesterol levels, which can decrease the risks of developing heart disease and may also help decrease the risk of type 2 diabetes.
There is no recommended daily intake of monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats. However, there are many health benefits from consuming them (as demonstrated historically from the Mediterranean diet) and they taste delicious!
Saturated Fats – Get Your Fat Facts Straight On These!
These fats are solid at room temperature and are generally in animal-based foods. Examples include egg yolks, animal meats, full-fat dairy products (including cheese, milk, butter, creams, etc). They are also found in tropical oils such as coconut and palm oil.
Research in the past and the American diet has particularly labeled these fats as “bad” or “dirty” even with Documentaries on Netflix such as Game Changers negatively affirming that these fats spike things such as inflammation.
The claims these framed documentaries are and the food fears you have read about in the news are not entirely true. Research shows that saturated fat intake may increase heart disease risk factors, but not heart disease itself. So ignore the media warnings that eating saturated fat will kill you, there is NOT enough research to prove this.
Multiple studies have supported that saturated fat intake increases heart disease risk factors, including LDL (the bad guys!) cholesterol and apolipoprotein B. The higher the number of LDL particles, the greater the amount of heart disease risk factors. However, although articulate and well-planned studies have shown a relationship between saturated fat intake and heart disease risk factors, research has failed to discover a strong connection or causation between saturated fat consumption and heart disease itself.
What is even more shocking is that findings from randomized controlled studies demonstrated that the historic and general recommendation to replace saturated fats with omega-6-rich polyunsaturated fats is unlikely to decrease the risk of heart disease and may even increase disease progression.
Now I am not saying to eat fast foods and sugary baked goods all day. Research still supports that a diet high in saturated fats in the form of fast food, fried products, sugary baked goods, and processed meats will affect health negatively. But if saturated fats are consumed in the form of full-fat dairy, grass-fed meat, and coconut oils they are generally good for you.
Fats are Fueling & Fabulously Tasting Foods
So what is the bottom line? Eat fat in moderation, and include a variety of saturated and unsaturated fats! What has been established through decades of research is that a healthy, disease-protective diet should be rich in nutritious and wholesome natural foods! Using fats in your meals have some health benefits but more importantly bring out excellent flavors and can truly make or break a meal. Fats should be embraced and NOT feared!
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Sun, Y., Liu, B., Snetselaar, L. G., Robinson, J. G., Wallace, R. B., Peterson, L. L., & Bao, W. (2019). Association of fried food consumption with all cause, cardiovascular, and cancer mortality: Prospective cohort study. The BMJ, 364. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.k5420
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