Starting in the 70s and then really taking off in the 80s it was decided that fat was the ultimate culprit for bad health. Sadly, this was a misnomer and led not only to the increase in sugar intake for most Americans, but also a switch away from good fats to really horrible ones. So lets cover what are good fats and why do we need them?
First we’ll talk about why we need fat in our diets:
There are 3 major reasons that I like to talk about, and really I think it’s all the convincing that anyone should need!
(1) Some very important vitamins that our bodies need to thrive are fat soluble. What exactly does that mean?
Definition: A vitamin that is soluble in fat solvents and oils (lipo-soluble). They are absorbed with ingested dietary fat, fat-soluble vitamins are stored in moderate amounts from the gastrointestinal tract. Present in minute amounts in various foods, these vitamins are essential to maintaining normal metabolism and biochemical functions; fat malabsorption may result in fat-soluble vitamin deficiencies. Fat-soluble vitamins include vitamins A, D, E, K, F.
In a nut shell, it means your body can’t make use of that particular vitamin unless it’s coming in with fat. If there’s no fat, then the nutrient will pass right on through and you’ll never gain any benefit from it. A good example of this is vitamin D in dairy products. If you eat non-fat yogurt, all that lovely vitamin D in the dairy is unusable for your body. Even if they fortify your milk or yogurt, unless there’s fat there, it won’t matter.
(2) The correct combination of fats can help reduce your body’s inflammatory response; thereby helping to reduce your risk of inflammatory and autoimmune diseases.
(3) And most importantly, your brain is about 60 percent fat, and without healthy fat in your diet it won’t have the necessary fatty acids it needs to function and thrive. Pretty simple right?
Which fats do we need to consume and which should we avoid?
1. Saturated Fats
Saturated Fats were one of those that got a bad name for itself back when the low-fat diets took hold. Sadly, this misconception is still going strong today even though research has shown time and again that saturated fats, when consumed from healthy sources, are not bad for you.
There are more than a dozen different types of saturated fat, but you predominantly consume only three: stearic acid, palmitic acid and lauric acid. It's now well established that stearic acid (found in cocoa and animal fat) has no adverse effects on your cholesterol levels, and actually gets converted in your liver into the monounsaturated fat called oleic acid. The other two, palmitic and lauric acid, do raise total cholesterol. However, since they raise "good" cholesterol as much or more than "bad" cholesterol, you're still actually lowering your risk of heart disease.
The key with saturated fats is to find the right source. Sources of healthy saturated fats include:
2. Monounsaturated Fats
Olive Oil and Canola Oil are your two most common in this category. Olive Oil can be very good for you, but many experts (including me) now advise you to stay away from Canola Oil (which turns out to be a modified and highly processed version of rapeseed oil – you’ll hear more about that below).
Two things to keep in mind when consuming olive oil: (1) cold-pressed extra virgin is the best; and (2) it damages at a relatively low heat. This means it's amazing in things like salad dressing, but that when cooking with it, use only at lower temperatures. If you’re looking for a good higher heat cooking oil, try coconut or avocado oils, grass fed butter, lard or ghee instead.
3. Trans Fatty Acids
This is a fat that is artificially made by adding hydrogen to vegetable oils in order to make them more solid (Partially Hydrogenated Oil), making trans fats your main fat culprit for bad health. Many studies have linked trans fats to an increased risk of heart disease. They also work on clogging your arteries and increase your chances of diabetes…among other health risks.
You will mainly find trans fats in processed foods and restaurants – particularly deep fried food. So look at your ingredients list or ask your restaurant what they use. Companies like them because they have a long shelf life, can be used more than once in a deep fryer and add a flavor that is appealing to most people.
There are also naturally occurring trans fats found in very small amounts in animal products. The research hasn’t come in yet on the effects of these trans fats. But since they’re in such small quantities, are naturally occuring and unprocessed, and nobody advocates going and eating a whole cow every week, they’re not typically thought of as a concern.
4. Omega 3 & Omega 6 (which fall under the category of polyunsaturated fats)
Most of you have probably heard of the importance of consuming your Omega’s, but this really is specific to Omega 3. There are actually 3 main types of omega fats in our diet: Omega 3, Omega 6 and Omega 9. In this article, I'm going to focus on Omega 3 & 6 (Omega 9 we can make ourselves and comes out as a wash in terms of consuming it in our diet - so we'll just leave it there). However, a serious health problem for most Americans is the skewed ratio in their diet of Omega 3 to Omega 6. Ideally, the ratio would be 1:1, but unfortunately, the average American consumes somewhere between 1:15 and 1:20. What’s the difference between the two?
Omega 3: There are both plant (ALA) and animal – mostly fish (DHA & EPA) sources of omega 3. It turns out that we don’t need a lot of ALA unless it’s converted to DHA, and our bodies aren’t very good at doing that. Therefore, animal sources are those that hold the most powerful health benefits.
Omega 6: The bulk of Omega 6 in our diets comes from vegetable oils (Palm, Soybean, Rapeseed & Sunflower). While it’s found in a whole host of other food too (some nuts, seeds, fruit and meat), these sources offer Omega 3 as well in a healthy ratio with Omega 6 thereby negating the negative effects. In fact, Omega 3 & Omega 6 interact with each other in our bodies, providing competition in a sense. So when our ratio is healthy, then we actually get the benefits of Omega 3. When the ratio is out of whack, we lose.
What does Omega 6 do?
Recap: Fats to consume, fats to avoid
***You’ll notice that all the animal based fats are from sustainable and range/pasture sources. That’s because what an animal eats makes a substantial difference in the makeup of the meat they become. Eating conventionally raised animals doesn’t provide the same good fats. ***
Find other resources and research here: