Good fats? Is that an oxymoron? Nope! There are excellent reasons to include fat, at least the right kinds of fat, into your diet. As a culture, we’ve been bombarded over the past few decades with every kind of low-fat, decreased fat, no fat food option the manufacturers of mostly processed foods could come up with. However, at the same time “low-fat” has been all the craze, obesity rates have skyrocketed. A healthy diet should include daily intake of good fats and avoidance of bad fats.
Of the bad fats, the baddest of the bad is trans fat. Trans fats are healthy oils that have been turned into solids to prevent them from becoming rancid through a process called hydrogenation. On a food label, you’d typically see it listed as “partially hydrogenated oil” and it is wise to steer clear. These types of fats increase levels of LDL cholesterol in the bloodstream leading to heart disease, are a major cause of inflammation and increase the risk of type 2 diabetes.
Saturated fats fall on the in-between scale of “avoid at all cost” bad fat and “get more of this into your diet” good fats. This type of fat is found in red meat, whole milk, cheese and coconut oil. These types of fats can drive up total cholesterol and should be eaten in moderation.
As for good fats, there’s monounsaturated and polyunsaturated. Monounsaturated fats are found in olive oil, peanut oil, avocados, olives and most nuts. During the 1960’s a study called the Seven Countries Study showed that the people of the Mediterranean region had lower rates of heart disease despite the fact that their diets were rich in fat. However, they weren’t using saturated animal fats to cook with as was common in countries with high rates of heart disease.
Polyunsaturated fats are called “essential fats” because they are required for normal body function such as building cell membranes, blood clotting muscle movement and fighting off inflammation. However they aren’t produced within the body and so it is essential that we get them from food. Doing so, lowers triglycerides and even reduces levels of LDL cholesterol. Good sources include fatty fish like salmon, mackerel and sardines, as well as flaxseeds, sesame seeds and walnuts.
Adding more good fats into your diet also helps you feel fuller longer, balance your mood, fight fatigue, sharpen your memory and decrease joint pain and stiffness!