OOOH, diet culture (insert palm to forehead)
Let’s get really clear on fats together. We may have heard negative things about eating fats and we also may be afraid of the word “fat” itself, but it’s time to break that negative thought belief. Here’s the truth: EATING FAT DOES NOT MAKE YOU FAT. However, not all sources of fats are created equal. Read on to learn more!
good fats versus bad fats
There is science suggesting that consuming fat in general is essential for optimal health. Dietary fats provide long-lasting energy to fuel your body. They help increase the absorption of fat-soluble nutrients (vitamin A, D, E and K) and support the production of happy and healthy hormones.
Let’s get something clear: no single food or type of fat can make or break your diet or your overall health. Practicing balance and kindness is important because the type of lifestyle you have has a much larger impact. There really isn’t any such thing as a “bad” fat. Nonetheless, including more “good” fats may help reduce your risk of chronic disease and unfortunately, too much of other fats could increase your risk. There are three main types of dietary fat: saturated fat, unsaturated fat and trans fat. Let’s break these three down.
difference between saturated and unsaturated fats
The main distinction between these two are their chemical structure - saturated fats contain no double bonds, whereas unsaturated fats contain one or more double bonds in their structure. This distinction allows for differences in physical and chemical properties between the two. This is why unsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature and saturated fats are more solid and also influence how they are absorbed and utilized by the human body
Saturated fats come primarily from animal based proteins and dairy, but can also be found in tropical plant sources like palm oil and coconut. Unsaturated fats come primarily from plant-based foods but can also be found in meat, seafood and dairy options. Based on science, we know that unsaturated fats are associated with numerous potential health benefits like supporting brain and heart health. On the other hand, saturated fat is more controversial because some studies suggest that high intakes of saturated fats can raise blood cholesterol levels, while other studies imply saturated fat is neither good or bad.
what are trans fats?
Trans fats can occur naturally in foods (produced in the gut of some animals and found in foods made from these animals), but a majority of the ones we get in our diet are man-made through food processing techniques - specifically through a process called hydrogenation that involves adding an additional hydrogen to unsaturated fats to make them solid and more shelf-stable at room temperature. You can identify trans fats in food by looking for partially hydrogenated oils on the ingredients label. Run from these “foods” when you can.
Trans fats have a unique chemical structure that is thought to help increase blood levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol and reduce levels of HDL (good) cholesterol, increasing your risk of heart disease. The research on trans fat and health risks is actually very strong and it has lead to the FDA calling for a ban on artificial trans fat ingredients used in the USA. Because of this, artificial trans fats have decreased in the food supply - although they can still be found in small amounts in some processed foods, which is why it is crucial for you to allows read the ingredients list and understand them.
what do good fats do?
You need to make sure you’re getting a certain amount of healthy fats regularly. This way, you ensure that there are benefits for digestion, increased appetite satiation, glowing skin, bright eyes, strong hair, stable blood sugar levels and weight loss. If you have a very active lifestyle, then you could up your intake of fats. Otherwise, you could stick to the lower end of spectrum at around 20%. A simple way of doing this is by making healthy fats a part of every meal and snack. I always recommend choosing organic, plant-based fats like the following for the most benefits:
- Oils – olive, coconut, avocado and flax
- Nuts – almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts and brazil nuts
- Seeds – pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds, etc.
- Avocados - yum!
- Nut butters (preferably raw and without added oils/sugar)
how do you work fats into your diet?
Our body takes a longer time to break down and digest fats. Splitting up your portions of healthy fats throughout the day ensures that you get constant bursts of energy. A dash of almond butter on fruit, some sliced avocado on toast, or adding nuts or seeds in with your salads - you’ll realize that incorporating healthy fats into your daily meal plan can be easy.
WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE WAY OF INCORPORATING HEALTHY FAT INTO YOUR DAILY ROUTINE?