With low-carb and ketogenic diets being very popular, there is a lot of talk about good fats. Most of us have been taught all of our lives that fat is bad and to avoid it at all cost. Low-fat diets are great for some, but a successful way to lose weight for many is by consuming healthy fats as part of a low-carbohydrate diet. So let’s break it down, fatty style.
What is a “Healthy Fat”?
There are three main macronutrients that make up the human diet: carbohydrates (carbs), protein, and fat. In simplest form, these three macronutrients are what we eat every day to ensure our bodies have energy and nutrients to survive.
Of course there is a lot of science and chemistry behind it all, but today let’s just talk FAT.
Your body needs fat in order to thrive. Eating fat is important for cell growth, body energy, nutrient absorption, and hormone production. So you’ve gotta have it. And that’s a good thing….as long as the majority of dietary fat you consume is a good fat.
So what’s the difference and how do you know what you should be eating?
Trans Fats – Stay Away
The worst fat you can eat is a “trans fat”, which is essentially a partially hydrogenated oil. Partially hydrogenated what? That’s just geek-speak for bad news, sisters.
Trans fats can increase your bad cholesterol and lead to an increased chance of heart disease. The FDA has discussed banning foods with trans fats, but for now, it is up to you to read food labels and choose wisely.
For a healthy diet, you should avoid trans fats as much as possible. No-no foods that usually contain bad fat are processed foods like packaged cookies, frozen pie crusts, refrigerated biscuits, some vegetable shortening and margarine products, frozen pizzas, and ready to use frosting. Mark these guys off of your shopping list now.
Saturated Fats – Eat in Moderation
Saturated fats aren’t as bad for you as trans fats, but you should only consume them in moderation. What does saturated mean? Saturated refers to the fatty acid compounds and carbon bonds and atoms and a lot of things that don’t mean a thing to me. What does matter is should we eat them or not?
Sources of saturated fats include butter, red beef, cheese, heavy cream, and even the super-popular coconut oil. Saturated fats are a staple in many versions of the popular keto diet. Our advice is to limit your intake of saturated fats to a serving a day. Don’t over do it, and enjoy them with plenty of healthy, green vegetables.
If you consume saturated fats in excess, they, too, can increase your bad cholesterol levels.
Polyunsaturated Fats – Now We’re Getting Better
Polyunsaturated fats are much healthier for your body and heart than the options we have listed so far. Did you know that you can actually lower your LDL cholesterol levels when you replace the saturated fats above with polyunsaturated fats?
Great examples of polyunsaturated “better for you” fat sources are salmon, tuna, mackerel, sunflower oil, flax seed, and most nuts. Look for ways to incorporate these foods into your diet routine to maximize the health benefits.
Monounsaturated Fats – The Healthy Fats
We’ve reached the promised land of fats. Monounsaturated fats are GOOD for you. That’s right. You can forget all of the low-fat nonsense of the past if you load up your daily diet with servings of nutritious, healthy fats.
The health benefits? Monounsaturated fats can lower your LDL “bad” cholesterol, possibly increase your HDL “good” cholesterol, and they help develop and maintain healthy body cells.
What’s on the list of foods rich in monounsaturated fats? Olive oil, safflower oil, canola oil, and many other vegetable oils. You can also consume olives, avocados, certain seeds, nuts and nut butters.