During the low-fat craze of the 80s and 90s, the prevailing wisdom was that all fat is bad for the human body. As a result, food manufacturers fed the low-fat, no-fat movement, loading their wares with salt, corn syrup, chemicals and phony fats.
Ironically, since then the rates of diabetes and heart disease have continued to grow – along with the collective American waistline.
Scientists have been trying to figure out why our figures are expanding despite our efforts to eat “healthy”. We now know that all fats are not created equal, and a healthy body requires a healthy dose of healthy fat.
Turns out there are countless metabolic processes that depend on fat. Fat-soluble vitamins like A, D and E need fat to do their job. Over 70% of your gray matter is fat, so it’s critical for stabilizing mood, memory, and other brain functions. Fat can improve skin health, heart health and the immune system. It can help prevent diabetes by slowing absorption of sugars and refined carbs.
And moderate amounts of good fat can actually help you lose weight by supporting your metabolism, making your food taste better and helping you feel satisfied so you eat less.
The Good, The Fat and The Ugly
Repeat after me: “Fat is not the enemy.” The key is moderation, and choosing the right kinds of fat. Which can be tricky when you’re confronted with the alphabet soup of fat facts out there. CLA, GLA, ALA, EFA, saturated, unsaturated, trans-fats, Omega 3 – what’s the skinny?
For detailed scoop, dig in to Real Food Digest’s in-depth discussion of the latest on dietary fats.
In the meantime, here’s the Cliffs Notes version:
EAT MORE OF THIS
- Oils: flax, walnut, raw extra-virgin olive oil. For cooking, stick with extra light olive oil. The jury is still out on coconut oil so use in moderation.
- Veggies: avocados, Brussels sprouts and green leafies like spinach and kale
- Nuts: especially walnuts (high in Omega 3), macadamia nuts, almonds, pistachios and cashews
- Seeds like flax, pumpkin, hemp, sunflower and sesame
- Fish: especially salmon, albacore tuna, Alaskan halibut and sardines. Choose wild-caught or safely-farmed fish to avoid mercury and other toxins.
- Grass-fed pastured meats, milk, butter, yogurt and eggs
AND NOT SO MUCH OF THIS
- Trans-fats and partially-hydrogenated oils found in margarine, fried foods, commercial baked goods, crackers and cookies.
- Polyunsaturated vegetable oils like soybean, corn, canola and safflower that have always been touted as “healthy.” But the average American eats way too much of them, increasing the risk of diabetes, heart disease and cancer.
- Saturated fats from conventionally-farmed meats, dairy and eggs.
Fast foods and processed foods are usually manufactured with cheap, unhealthy, chemically-altered fats. So your best bet is to eat fresh, whole foods from the “good” list, read package labels, and skip the fast food.
How do you get your good fat?