Fat took a beating in the low-fat, carb-crazy 90s. Everyone was touting “fat-free” diets, all while slugging back excess sugars. We’ve seen the error of our ways! You need fat to help you absorb certain nutrients, such as fat-soluble vitamins (vitamins A, D, E and K) and antioxidants (like lycopene and beta-carotene), as well as maintain cell structure.
Cell structure seems important, dontcha think? We do too.
Additionally, fats are macronutrients. As in, nutrients that we consume in large quantities and give us energy.
Fat comes in two main forms: unsaturated and saturated fat. Unsaturated fats are oils — the kind that are fluid at room temperature (such as olive). Saturated fats are solid at room temperature (think a stick of butter or glob of coconut oil). All fat carries 9 calories per gram.
When we hear “saturated fat”, we generally think “bad”, but this has been proven false, which is why we’re currently enjoying a coconut oil craze with health and wellness experts. How did this happen?
Saturated fats, debunked
Saturated fats have been declared to cause heart disease by raising cholesterol in the blood. However, no experimental evidence has ever directly linked saturated fat to heart disease, even though it still became public policy in 1977. Today, science has demonstrated that while saturated fat does raise LDL levels (“bad” cholesterol, although there are different kinds and this can also be misleading) it also raises HDL levels (good cholesterol). When studies were run in humans instead of making judgements based on assumptions, observational data and animal studies as before, we have discovered that there is no experimental evidence has been able to link saturated fats to heart disease.
But not all fat is good. Some of them are good for us, others neutral, yet others are clearly harmful. We are discovering that saturated and monounsaturated fats are not only safe but may be even downright healthy. Polyunsaturated fats and trans fats, not so much. Polyunsaturated fats are generally being over-consumed in the US, due to abundant use of seed- and vegetable oils like soybean and corn oils, as well as the processed foods that contain them. This throws the balance of our Omega-3s and Omega-6s way off. In general, most people can correct this by avoiding heavily processed or low quality fast foods. Want to avoid trans fats, too? (You do.) Stay away from partially hydrogenated oils.
So, where is the good fat?
Ready to tuck into what you can and should eat? So are we! These are great sources of healthy fats, ready to be paired with lots of leafy greens, clean proteins, and colorful fruits and veggies.
The all-star avocado
There are a lot of holidays out there, but National Avocado Day is one we can totally get behind (it’s July 31st, btw!). In just one serving of avocado (40 grams) you find almost 6 grams of heart healthy mono-saturated fatty acids. Pair that up with potassium, fiber, and Vitamin K and there is no question why so many health and wellness pros make avocodo a daily addition to their diets.
Pecans. Almonds. Walnuts. Go nuts over, well… NUTS! Pecans, being high in unsaturated fat, can help lower bad cholesterol. Walnuts are an amazing source of omega-3 fatty acids which help increase brain activity. Almonds carry a healthy dose of magnesium which can help regulate blood pressure. Tree nuts are all high in omega-3s, also a natural anti-inflammatory, which helps ease PMS pains. So ladies, give nutty treats a try during that time of the month!
A little bird told us that seeds are jammed packed with nutrients, vitamins and minerals. These tiny capsules of healthy fats and protein provide a great on-the-go dose of omega-3 fatty acids. Whether you’re adding chia seeds to your oats or sprinkling some flax seeds on your salads, seeds are easy to integrate into your day. In addition to healthy fats you’ll be incorporating fiber, protein, minerals, and vitamins into your diet.
Oils (olive, flax, coconut)
Oils are an easy way to get your omega-3s. Some of our heart healthy favorites are flaxseed and olive. Flaxseed oil contains alpha-linoleic acid, a type of fatty acid our body does not naturally produce, studies have shown that this particular kind of omega-3s can help reduce arthritis symptoms. The fatty acid in olive oil is a monounsaturated fat called oleic acid, which helps your body burn stored fat as fuel, aiding in weight loss.
The takeaway: Don’t fear high-flavor, high benefit saturated fats, monounsaturated fats, and Omega-3s. Avoid trans fats and processed vegetable oils. Done and done!