The “Skinny” on Fats
Dietary fat is one of the most vilified and misunderstood components of the American diet. Some people fill their shopping carts with a plethora of non-fat products under the false idea that all fat is bad and that eating it will expand their waistlines. Extra calories from any source (fat, carbohydrates, or proteins) can be turned into body fat and for many, the excess consumption of refined carbohydrates and sugar is the main culprit. Including healthy fats into the diet does have many benefits including 1) making you feel full longer by slowing the breakdown of your meal and 2) preventing cravings by providing longer lasting energy than high sugar foods.
Fat plays an important role when it comes to the flavor and consistency of foods. When you completely remove the fat, something else will be used in it’s place. Many “fat-free” and “calorie-free” foods are loaded with artificial colors, flavorings, emulsifiers and much more. So you may be asking, “What’s left to eat?” Here are some basics on the various kinds of fat, the ones to avoid, and the ones you should include in your diet.
Partially or Fully Hydrogenated Oils
Hydrogenation is a process that turns polyunsaturated oils (normally liquid at room temperature) into a fat that is solid at room temperature. These “trans fats” are very unhealthy and their consumption has been linked to an increased risk for heart disease and obesity. Foods that contain hydrogenated oils include some chips, crackers, baked goods, many frozen foods and much more. Read your labels!
Foods high in Omega 3 Fatty Acids
According to some health experts, most Americans already consume plenty Omega 6 Fatty Acids (vegetable oils, baked goods) and we should increase our levels of Omega 3 Fatty Acids. The typical American consumes about a 10 to 1 ratio of Omega 6 to Omega 3 and that ratio should be closer to 4 to 1 or even lower.
Foods that are high in Omega 3’s include…
- Fish, fish oil
- Flax oil
- Chia seeds
- Milk and meat from grass fed cows. Cows which are fed grass instead of grains are much healthier and their meat has a much higher percentage of Omega 3 Fatty Acids.
- Eggs from chickens allowed to range and eat insects (look for cage free and free range)
Avocados are mostly monounsaturated fat and are a great source of fat-soluble vitamins E and K.
Nuts are high in Omega 6 Fatty Acids which are ok in moderation. They provide a healthy source of monounsaturated fats and also contain protein for repairing or building muscle.
Olive Oil is the safest vegetable oil to use and is great on salads, vegetables, or for cooking at moderate temperatures. Using extra virgin olive oil is a great way to get your antioxidants.
One key to eating fats is to avoid the man-made ones which have taken over many of the foods we eat today. Healthy fats, like some of the ones mentioned here, are essential for normal hormonal functioning, healthy skin and eyes, an enhanced immune system, proper mineral absorption, and much more. So eat your fat, just choose the right ones and don’t overdo it!