Fat isn’t the enemy you think it is. In fact, consuming dietary fat is essential. Fat helps us maintain energy levels, absorb certain fat-soluble vitamins and minerals, build cell membranes, and keep our bodies functioning at optimal levels.
All that said, there is good fat and bad fat. Here’s what you need to know about the different kinds of fat and how to include — or exclude — them from your healthy diet.
The worst: Trans fat
Trans fat is the kind of fat you want to avoid. It’s found in highly-processed foods like packaged snacks, canned soups, white bread, deep-fried foods and processed meats.
Unfortunately, trans fat is commonly used in the food industry because of its technical properties. It is a thick fat, making it easier to manipulate within the manufacturing process. It also preserves better than other fats, helping manufacturers create food that doesn’t spoil.
Food containing trans fat may taste delicious, but consuming them regularly over time is detrimental to your health. Eating foods high in trans fat increases the amount of harmful LDL cholesterol in your blood and decreases the amount of healthy HDL cholesterol. Trans fat is linked to many common health problems such as diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. It has no health benefits and should be avoided as much as possible.
The middle ground: Saturated fat
Saturated fat is found in many natural foods and animal products. At room temperature, it’s solid in form. Saturated fats aren’t as harmful as trans fats, but don’t have as many benefits when compared to unsaturated fats so they are best consumed in moderation. If you need to lower your cholesterol levels, aim to consume no more than 5 to 6 percent of total daily calories from saturated fat.
Some examples of food containing saturated fat are…
- Dairy products
- Red meat
- Processed cheeses
Coconut oil — which is common is healthy cooking because of its taste and relatively high smoke point — contains saturated fat, but has also been shown to boost the HDL cholesterol (the good one) which other sources of saturated fats do not do.
The good stuff: Omega-3s and omega-6s
There are two beneficial – or healthy – types of fat: monounsaturated and polyunsaturated. These fats are found in wholesome, natural food sources and should make up one-third of your daily fat intake.
Polyunsaturated fat consists mostly of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids are found in fish (salmon, sardines, etc.), walnuts, and chia seeds. Omega-6 fatty acids are found in soybeans, flaxseeds, and sunflower seeds.
These key omegas should be consumed in a balanced manner because they work together to keep the body functioning optimally with omega-3 fatty acids reducing inflammation and omega-6 fatty acids promoting inflammation. Eating either in excess creates an imbalance and can result in health problems such as heart disease.
Monounsaturated fat was discovered in the Mediterranean. Although the Greek diet is high in fat, researchers found a very low incidence of heart disease. The reason? Olive oil. Other sources of monounsaturated fat include avocados, peanut oil, and certain nuts.
Don’t fear fat
When adding fat to your diet, both quantity and quality are important factors to consider — with quality weighing heavier. In clinical studies, subjects who ate a moderate or low-fat diet didn’t lose weight with more ease compared to participants who followed a moderate or high-fat diet. It turns out that the type of fat consumed is much more important than the amount.
So, it’s time to think of fat as a necessary part of your diet, not something to avoid. Focus on eating healthy fats, in moderation of course, and limiting the bad fats. Swap butter with olive oil or margarine with peanut oil, eat fish instead of steak, and skip canned soup and choose to make your own instead.
For a quick overview, here are sources of healthy fats:
- Olive oil
- Nuts and seeds
On the flip side, here are sources of bad fat:
- Deep fried foods
- Cookies, pastries, and chips
We’re not saying you can never have a donut, cookie, or your favorite treat again. However, if you want to reach your wellness goals, it is best to limit your consumption of foods containing bad fats as much as possible and trade them for healthy alternatives.
If you have 8fit Pro, you can feel safe knowing that your meal plans are designed by nutritionists to provide a variety of fats while decreasing your consumption of unhealthy fats. That way, you will eat a healthy diet the majority of the time and if you must, you have the wiggle room for reward meals here and there.