Fat got a bad rap in the 90’s and the result was low fat diets everywhere with the effects still lingering today. The truth is that fat is not bad, but what matters most is what types you eat.
What is fat?
There are several types of fat, not just one “fat.” Saturated, Polyunsaturated, and Monounsaturated are the categories that make up this category. They are actually a combination of hydrogen and carbon. When the fat molecule is “full” then it is a saturated fat. When the molecule is “full” except for one spot, it is monounsaturated. And when it is only partially “full” it is a polyunsaturated fat. Saturated fats are usually solid at room temperature (think butter) while Poly and Unsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature because of the molecules not being right next to each other.
We need fat for several functions.
- It helps our brain function and it coats the outer part of our nerves to send signals or electrical impulses.
- Absorption of vitamins A, D, E, and K.
- For storing energy.
- Making hormones such as estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone.
- Helps regulate blood glucose levels.
This type of fat is from animal products, including dairy, and oils. Foods such as meat, cheese, yogurt, and coconut oil contain saturated fats. This fat was part of the 90’s low fat fad and it was spread around to not eat these types of foods because of the type of fat. This type can raise your cholesterol and it was then linked to be bad for the heart. But the truth is that cholesterol is needed in the body and it isn’t inherently bad. As a result, we have cut out these fats and replaced with more sugar and carbs plus unhealthy fats, with heart disease leading the way as the number one cause of death.
The other piece to this fat puzzle is the QUALITY of these choices. Fat changes its make-up when created differently. For example, the fat make-up of meat and butter will change based on how the cow was fed. Was it grain fed or grass fed? Was it injected with hormones and antibiotics? Those are big questions when considering what to consume. The benefits lie within the grass-fed, organic options because the fat molecules will be the way God intended them.
These are mainly plant based fats. Nuts, avocados, olive, and sesame oils make up this category and have great benefits for the heart. They help lower LDL cholesterol and increase HDL, resulting in better blood pressure. In keeping with quality, nuts that are organic will not be sprayed with pesticides and olive oil should be stored in a dark, cool place so it doesn’t go rancid.
Omega-3 and omega-6’s make up this fat. They are referred to as essential fats because our bodies can’t make them. Omega-3’s are are more anti-inflammatory than omega-6’s. The ratio should be higher in 3’s than 6’s to not promote chronic inflammation. This goes back to eating quality foods because if the ratio is always off, then chronic problems can happen. For example, the ratio flips when a cow is fed grains and corn. Butter will be higher in omega-6’s than omega-3’s, but if it is 100% grass-fed, 3’s will be higher than 6’s.
There is no reason to ever ingest this type of fat, as it has ZERO health benefits. Thanks to the low fat phase in the 90’s, people turned to margarine and boxed foods claiming to have low fat and be “heart healthy.” But none of it was true. The margarine and crisco that replaces butter is made up of trans fats. This type causes inflammation, lowers good cholesterol and raises bad cholesterol. Not only that, but it increases the risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. It hides under the label “partially or fully hydrogenated vegetable oil” and food companies don’t have to put it on the nutrition label unless it has a certain amount per serving. This is why looking at the ingredient list is a must. It hides in crackers, granola bars, baked goods, frozen dinners, fried foods, fast food restaurants, just to name a few.
Go with Quality
All that said, our bodies still need fat. It helps stabilize blood sugar, protect organs, grow babies, keeps the brain healthy, and more. The important thing is to be educated on what types of fat to eat and to pair them with a whole food diet. For example, pairing grass-fed steak with sweet potato and green beans is an excellent way to to fuel the body. Avocado with hard boiled egg in a salad contain fats that are the good ones we need to function properly and absorb the vitamins that will benefit our bodies. These types of raised animals and whole food meals should absolutely make up our diets and not be avoided. But if you make a switch of conventionally raised animals and low quality boxed foods, the make-up of the fats change and your body becomes chronically inflamed causing a host of issues, which no one wants but so many go through today. But sticking within the healthy ones we discussed and having variety will give you the best benefits possible!