Why You Should be Eating More Fat (the truth about fat in diets)

For decades, we have been told that fat is bad. We’ve been told to avoid fats like the plague because they’re the downfall to every diet. However, new information is showing that fats can be both beneficial and essential to weight loss.

What is fat?

Fat is an essential nutrient that cannot be dissolved in water. Fat not only contributes energy to our bodies; it also helps us get the maximum benefit of all the other nutrients we consume.

What role does fat play in the body? Why do we need it?

Fat improves our bodies’ function in a wide variety of ways. Fat supplies us with energy. It helps us produce the right amount of testosterone and estrogen. Fat helps our immune system be at its finest. It helps us absorb other nutrients including the FAT soluble vitamins A, D, E, K.

To those who are deeply concerned about weight loss, fat should be your friend, not your enemy. According to the British Journal of Nutrition, eating fat helped participants lose weight even if their daily calorie consumption remained unchanged. On top of that, eating certain fats can boost your metabolism and make you feel fuller for longer.

What are the different types of fat?

Though you should be eating fat, it is of course important to consider where the fat is coming from. The three main categories of fats are saturated, unsaturated, and trans fats.

Saturated fats have their molecules completely surrounded by hydrogen atoms. In the past, they have been considered “bad” fat as they raise LDL cholesterol levels.  However, if we limit saturated fat intake and replace it with carbohydrate there is no improvement in risk for cardiovascular disease.  If we reduce our saturated fat intake and replace it with poly-unsaturated fats there is decreased risk of cardiovascular disease.

Unsaturated fats are not completely surrounded by hydrogen atoms. They have always been considered the “good” fat. Unsaturated fats can raise HDL cholesterol levels (the “good” kind) and boost your metabolism. Monounsaturated fats have only one hydrogen atom per fat molecule and can boost your metabolism for hours after your last meal. Polyunsaturated fats (such as omega-3 and omega-6) fats can lower the bad LDL cholesterol levels. They also help the immune system by combating inflammation.

Trans fats don’t occur naturally. They’re made by making vegetable oils more solid by adding hydrogen to them. These are found primarily in highly processed foods and should be avoided. Trans fats both raise LDL cholesterol levels and lower HDL cholesterol levels.  More and more food manufacturers are taking these out of the foods we buy since their negative impact on health has been exposed.

How to get the good fats in your diet

It’s important you consider where your fats are coming from. Though fat is good, it’s best to get it from whole foods. Avoid highly processed foods such as sweets and potato chips.

  • For example, a donut and an avocado contain the same amount of fat, but a donut is also high in sugar and very low in nutrients like vitamins and minerals. An avocado is high in monounsaturated fats and provides several vitamins and minerals.
  • Avoiding processed foods will also help you avoid bad trans fats. If you stick to eating organically there is no way for trans fats to sneak into your diet.
  • Consider foods you already eat; our dietary habits easily provide us with enough of certain fats already. For example, omega-6 fats are found in vegetable oils that we commonly cook with. Getting enough of it isn’t really an issue. We also get plenty of saturated fats from traditional foods in our culture like milk, cheese, and meat.
  • If you’ve been dieting for awhile you may have been trained to avoid foods that contain beneficial fat. It may help to reintroduce those “bad” foods into your diet. Egg yolks, nuts, oils, avocados, olives are all great  sources of healthy fats.

Good and bad foods with fat

Common sense can help dictate which foods with fat can be a great addition to your diet and which foods will only hurt you. You should always make a point to avoid processed foods. Read the ingredient labels; if you find yourself unable to pronounce most things on the list, you should avoid eating it.

Avocados are a popular choice; they contain 21 grams of highly beneficial fat and no excess chemicals found in packaged snack foods. Milk and yogurt, though they contain saturated fats, will help you burn fat more efficiently.

Avoid fats from foods that contain little to no nutritional value like high fat baked goods like donuts or biscuits.  Instead replace with whole grains that provide fiber and B vitamins.  Always check the label of foods to make sure the fats used are not trans fat.

Conclusion

Fats are highly beneficial to your body, despite years of being told otherwise. They help improve our bodies’ overall functioning, helping out our immune system and nutrient absorption. Fats also help us achieve our weight loss goals; by consuming fat, we both reduce our appetite for prolonged periods of time and give our metabolisms a great boost. You should definitely make fat a part of your diet.

Image Credit: Yersinia pestis

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