Despite the common misconception that all fat is bad for you and that fat should be eliminated completely our of our diets, our bodies actually require fat in order to stay healthy.
Fat is actually an important nutrient in a healthy diet, just like protein and carbohydrates.
A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association suggested a diet rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids—the healthy fats—can help reduce the risk of getting heart disease, the most common cause of death in Western countries today, and also lower both your cholesterol levels and blood pressure.
Actually when choosing diet to keep or ditch in our diets, not only must we ask “How much fat does a particular food item contain,” but also “What kind of fat does this food item contain?”
Rather than adopting a low-fat diet, it’s more important to focus on limiting harmful “bad” fats and eating more beneficial “good” fats. This is because “bad” fats increase your risk of certain diseases…while “good” fats can protect your brain and heart health, help you manage your mood, help you stay on top of your mental game, fight fatigue, boost your energy and well-being, help you manage your weight, lower your cholesterol levels, and help your body absorb vitamins.
There are four different types of fat…
- Trans fatty acid
- Saturated fats
- Unsaturated fats
The first two types of fat—trans fatty acids and saturated fats—are the dangerous type of fat you don’t want in your diet because these fats increase your levels of LDL while decreasing your levels of HDL (more on this to come later), cause you to gain weight, clog your arteries, and affect your health in many other ways also.
- Good sources of the “good” types of fat that you should think about incorporating into your diet include
- Butter—grass-fed butter, ghee (clarified butter).
- Fatty fish—salmon, tuna, mackerel, herring, trout, sardines
- Fish oil
- Nuts (almonds, peanuts, macadamia, hazelnuts, pecans, cashews)
- Oils…olive, canola, peanut, cold-pressed coconut, sesame, soybean and safflower
- Peanut butter
- Seeds—sunflower, sesame, and pumpkin seeds
The last two types of fat—unsaturated fats and Omega-3—can lower your risk of heart disease and stroke, lower your levels of LDL while increasing your levels of HDL, prevent abnormal heart rhythms, lower triglycerides associated with heart disease and fight inflammation, lower blood pressure, prevent hardening of the arteries. These fats may also help to make you feel more satisfied after a meal, reducing hunger and thus promoting weight loss.
Sources of these “bad” fats that you should eliminate from your diet include…
- Anything containing hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated vegetable oil
- Commercially-baked pastries, cookies, doughnuts, muffins, cakes, pizza dough
- Fried foods
- Ice cream
- Packaged snack foods—crackers, microwave popcorn, chips
- Red meat
- Stick margarine
- Vegetable shortening
- Whole-fat dairy products
More tips for adding more healthy fats to your diet
- Aim for a diet rich in a variety of vegetables, fruit, nuts, and beans
- Consume dairy products in moderation
- Eat fried or processed meals only occasionally
- Eat more avocados—such as avocado sandwiches, salads, and guacamole
- Eat more nuts—such as adding ing nuts to vegetable dishes, using them instead of breadcrumbs on chicken or fish, or making your own trail mix
- Eat more olives—tapenade, dips
- Eat two or more servings of fatty fish each week
- Learn more about following a “Mediterranean diet”
- Limit how much red meat you put on the menu
- Make your own salad dressings
- Substitute beans, nuts, poultry, and fish for the red meat that you just crossed off your grocery list
- Switch from whole milk dairy to lower fat versions.
- Use canola oil for baking
- Use olive oil for stovetop cooking…rather than butter, stick margarine, or lard