Here is a famous quote from some random guy:
Eating fats won’t make you fat. -Adam Clark
Fat. When you hear this word, you probably think of overweight, obese, big or something along those lines. Today, we aren’t going to talk about that. Instead, we are going to talk about fats and how they are an essential part of our nutrition.
If you are looking to shed some pounds, feel better and clean up your nutrition, fats can help you get there. First, let’s talk about fats and clear up some confusion.
There are four main types of fats: saturated, trans, polyunsaturated and monounsaturated. Not all fats are created equal. Saturated and trans fats are considered the “not so good” fats and polyunsaturated and monounsaturated are the “good” ones.
The Not So Good
Let’s start with Saturated Fats. Considered unhealthy, these types of fats are solid at room temperature. While there is a bit of controversy in the medical community regarding if these directly contribute to the risk of heart disease or not, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends you get less than 10 percent of your calories from this source and the American Heart Association recommends even less. These fats are generally found in animal products. Beef, bacon, burgers are all higher in saturated fat content and other foods such as dairy, pizza, cheese, and desserts have a higher saturated fat count. While these will be part of your nutrition in some shape or form, it is best to limit them. After all, while an all pizza meal plan sounds appetizing sometimes and might be your five-year old’s dream, it does not check the healthy box.
Next, Trans Fats. These have gotten a ton of discussion over the past decade because of the fast food industry. Did you know that in 2017, the fast food industry generated over $570 billion in revenue around the world? Fast food is a big player in the food market and I do not see that changing because of the convenience of it in our busy, busy lives. Trans fats are prevalent in fast food items, typically fried foods such as fried chicken, french fries as well as boxed foods such as cookies and chips. Straight up, trans fats are NOT good for you. They have been shown to raise the bad cholesterol levels, known as LDLs, contribute to insulin resistance and increase the risk of heart disease.
Moving on to the good fats, let’s start with the first of the unsaturated fats, Polyunsaturated Fats. These fats should be a staple in your diet as they have been shown to decrease the risk of heart disease. Polyunsaturated fats can be found in foods such as fish, walnuts, flax seeds, and canola oil. You’ve probably heard Omega-3’s are good for you and that is a specific type of polyunsaturated fat. Your body can’t make these so it’s important to get them through your food or supplementation.
The other good fat is Monounsaturated Fat. A tag team member of the championship Unsaturated Fat team, these fats have higher concentrations in foods such as avocados, olive oil, peanuts, and almonds. These foods have been shown to decrease the risk of LDL cholesterol and are high in nutrient concentration. Eat them!
Check out this food chart done by Harvard University which shows some specific examples of the “good” and “not so good” choices when it comes to fats.
Now that you know which fats are good and not so good for you, let’s talk about cholesterol levels. Much like the rest of the nutrition industry, there seems to be a lot of confusion when it comes to cholesterol levels. Here are a few tidbits to clear up the confusion.
Cholesterol is essential for your body’s function as it helps with hormone production as well as vitamin D production.
If you eat fast food, cholesterol doesn’t just automatically go into your body and plug up your arteries. While I do not advocate eating fast food, one trip through the drive-thru should not cause mass hysteria.
LDL cholesterol, also known as low-density lipoproteins, is known as the “not so good” cholesterol and can contribute to heart disease. Basically, if your nutrition consists of higher saturated and trans fat contents, over can contribute to plaque build-up in the arteries. Think of this as a congested highway where things don’t move well only this time its blood, oxygen, and nutrients that are vital to living.
HDL cholesterol, also known as high-density lipoproteins, is known as good cholesterol. This helps in keeping the arteries clear. Think of this as your snow plow crew or police officers, keeping the roadways or in this case, your arteries, safe. HDLs help transport cholesterol to your liver which expels it from your body. Regular cardiovascular exercise, as well as good nutrition including regular unsaturated fats, can contribute to higher HDL counts.
Lastly, when you see “fat-free” on the label, I want you to become increasingly cautious. Fat-free is another way of saying there is more sugar added to the mix. These buzzwords are common in nutrition along with “skinny,” “bare,” and “whole.” Read your nutrition labels and remember which fats have benefits and which do not. If it is fat-free but there are 15 grams of added sugar, it’s safe to say that is not a healthy choice and it's just a way to trick consumers into thinking it is healthy.
Eat fats, get healthy, stay happy and remember you control your own destiny.
What are three foods that you eat currently or will add to your nutrition plan that are high in healthy fats?