Are fats good or are they bad?
Which kind of fat is the best for optimal health?
Aren’t fats responsible for heart attacks?
Are fats really that important in our diet?
This topic can be quite confusing because there are so many categories, the good, the bad and the ugly. I hope by the end you have a better understanding of each one and how they can either help or hurt your health.
Let’s start with the fact that fats are hugely important in our daily dietary intake. Contrary to popular belief that fats make you fat, they actually play a major role in fat loss if balanced appropriately.
Before we get into why some fats are good or bad. Let’s focus on why we need them in our diets on a daily basis:
- Acts as the largest fuel source in the body – fats are much denser than protein and carbs and provides a more sustainable amount of energy to fuel our bodies
- Assists in regulating hormones
- Provides structure to our cell membranes
- Helps transport vitamins and minerals in the body
- Helps form our brain and nervous system
- Provides two essential fatty acids (Omega 3 and 6) that the body cannot make on its own
However, if your diets consists of mainly processed foods, then saturated fat and possibly trans fat will be prominent. Which leaves your diet majorly out of balance and causes weight gain along with a host of other health issues. The typical American diet has a ratio of 16:1 saturated vs. unsaturated.
First let’s get trans fat out of the way. You should not eat them. Period.
Trans fat is unsaturated fat that is liquid at room temperature and then processed with hydrogen. Food companies and restaurants love using trans fat because of the longer shelf life of food and it makes the food taste better.
Trans fat does not digest well in the body and ends up being packed into the cell membranes. Trans fat raises LDL cholesterol and lowers HDL cholesterol. Basically it raises the bad and lowers the good, putting us at high risk for heart disease, cancer and Alzheimer disease.
Simply put there is a reason why it has been largely removed from foods. But please take it upon yourself to read labels and look for “partially hydrogenated oils” and also be aware of what you are eating in restaurants and fast food chains.
Consuming saturated fat in high quantities with unsaturated fat being much lower can put you at risk for heart disease as well. Consuming large amounts of fatty cuts of meat, dairy or processed sweet/baked goods will cause the body to become out of balance, storing excess fat into our cells which will in turn cause weight gain.
Omega 6 fats are great, however if they are not in balance with Omega 3 fats, then inflammation can flair up in our bodies.
Here is an example of what each fat category looks like in terms of food.
An optimal balance of fats for our bodies to be fueled and function at a high level is 1/3 saturated, 1/3 monounsaturated and 1/3 polyunsaturated with Omegas being at a 1:1 ratio.
Take a look at your next meal and evaluate the ratio of fats, be sure to consider what type of meat you are eating, is it fatty or lean? What oil or butter your food is cooked in or what oil is in your salad dressing. And how much butter, cheese and sour cream is on your baked potato?? 🙂
Do you see how saturated fats can get out of hand pretty quickly?
Stay tuned, next week we’ll talk all about macros and how to balance them for your body type!!