Nutrition And The Truth About Fat In Our Diet
We have a complicated relationship with fat in our diets. Fat has been both vilified and glorified in our society throughout the years. It seems that one day fat is good, then it’s bad – now it’s good again! So what is the truth about fat? It can be really confusing to determine which advice to follow about fat, but I am here to tell you that fat is absolutely essential in our diet.
First, let’s bust the myth straight away: eating fat does NOT make you fat. This myth originated from sugar lobbyists back in the 1960s, who convinced everyone that fat was to blame for heart disease, rather than sugar.
As a result of this myth, our diets have become increasingly high in refined carbs and sugar, and low in fat. This has resulted in higher rates of obesity, heart disease and inflammation. Although the “fat makes you fat” myth has been widely debunked by science again and again, it still lingers to this day.
Contrary to what many believe, studies actually show that healthy fats can aid in weight loss. For now, what you need to know is that there is a difference between dietary fat and body fat. Now that we’ve cleared that up, I will break down the different types of fat and the importance of each one in our diet.
Saturated fats are saturated with hydrogen molecules, and contain only single bonds between carbon molecules. They are the most stable types of fat and are great to use when cooking at higher temperatures. Once thought to be the cause of heart disease, this myth has now been debunked by science.
This study found no evidence that dietary saturated fat is associated with an increased rate of heart disease. As with anything, quality makes a difference. I am always of the philosophy that real, whole foods should be chosen over processed foods.
The truth is, people tend to blanket “fats” the same way they blanket “carbs”. There are several types of fats just like there are several types of carbs. They are not equal and should not be lumped together.
Saturated fats can be further broken down into long chain, medium chain and short chain fatty acids. All three types are important for our bodies, but medium chain and short chain fatty acids are particularly beneficial. Studies show that medium chain fatty acids can actually help us burn calories, while short chain fatty acids are important for colon health.
Sources of saturated fat include: butter, animal meat and animal products, coconut oil and palm oil.
Monounsaturated fats (MUFAs) have only one double bond in their structure. They are less stable than saturated fats so should always be stored carefully and shouldn’t be used in high heat cooking. There are many different types of MUFAs, with oleic acid being the most common.
Studies have shown that these types of fats are beneficial in reducing blood sugar levels, increasing satiety, and fuelling fat loss.
Some sources of monounsaturated fat include: olive oil, olives, avocados and avocado oil, almonds, brazil nuts, cashews, pumpkin seeds, pork and beef.
Polyunsaturated Fats (PUFAS) have more than one double bond in their chemical structure and are found alongside other fats in foods like nuts, seeds, fish, beef and plant oils. You may have heard of omega-3s and omega-6s. These are types of polyunsaturated fats and both types are essential, meaning our bodies can’t make them, so we need to get these from our diet.
Omega-3 fatty acids are powerful anti-inflammatories and are also beneficial in weight loss and regulating appetite. Some sources include fatty fish like salmon, sardines, mackerel, fish oil, beef and egg yolks. Omega-6 fatty acids are primarily used as energy and maintaining organ function in the body. They are pro-inflammatory which means they cause inflammation in the body.
Now just to be clear, some inflammation is absolutely essential for many processes in the body like healing injuries and protection from pathogens. The problem is that if you don’t have the correct ratio of omega-3s to omega-6s, inflammation can get out of control. Ideally, you want to eat enough omega-6s to get the benefits, but eat an abundance of omega-3s to keep inflammation in check.
Omega-6s can be found in hemp (CBD) oil, hemp seeds, poultry, pumpkin seeds and pistachios.
A note on “vegetable” oils
Vegetables oils consist of industrial seed oils from corn, safflower seeds, rapeseeds, cottonseed and soybean oil. They are processed at high temperatures, refined, bleached and deodorized before we can consume them. As a result, these oils are highly unstable and toxic to humans.
These should be avoided at all costs!
The Bottom Line
The right fats are necessary in building cell membranes, making hormones, keeping you full, enhancing nutrient absorption and keeping your brain and heart healthy.
As always, quality matters. Focus on incorporating whole, real fats in your diet. Your body and brain will thank you for it.
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