Fat has gotten a bad rap over the years, with people gobbling up low calories and high sugar laden low fat products. Now, it seems the tide is turning a bit, and there is the recognition of just how valuable the right fats are in our diet. Here is a quick fact sheet to give you the lowdown and some facts on fats!
1) Fat is good for you! In fact, essential fats can:
- reduce the risk of many diseases, including cancer and heart disease
- ease symptoms of arthritis,
- decrease risks for and presence depression, anxiety disorders and fatigue
- reduce allergy symptoms
- alleviate skin conditions such as eczema, rashes and infections
- reduce symptoms PMS
- increase the absorption of fat soluble vitamins such as vitamins A, D, E, and K
- help protect bones and organs
- protect and nourish the brain
- be vital for young babies and children to grow
- help regulate blood sugar levels by avoiding a spike in glucose when sugars (or simple carbohydrates) are consumed
2) Some fat is not so good for you, and can lead to greater risk of disease and actually increase the symptoms and appearance of the conditions above.
3) Ideally, around 20% of your total caloric intake should be in the form of fat – the good kind.
4) There are three types of fats: saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated. Almost all foods that contain fat have a combination of all three.
5) Saturated fats (all hydrogen bonds are filled - and are more stable) are usually solid at room temperature and are found in such foods as pork, lamb, poultry with skin, cheese, lard, cream, and butter. Eating foods with saturated fats often raises the level of cholesterol in the blood, and also these foods are often high in calories.
6) Cooking with polyunsaturated or monounsaturated fats (such as sunflower oil or olive oil) can generate oxidizing free radicals (think disease-causing agents). This is because the nutrients in these oils are very sensitive to damage at high temperatures.
7) Butter and coconut oil are excellent for cooking because they are saturated fats and are not as prone to damage when used at high temperatures. Avocado oil can also be used at high temps.
8) Coconut is an exceptional to the general saturated fat rule. Unlike lard and other animal fats, it is a medium chain fatty acid (MCFA) and is also a plant source of fatty acids. Because of this unique property, coconut oil has been touted for numerous benefits. Here is a link for more on coconut oil.
- Hemp oil
- Sunflower seeds
- Sesame seeds
- Cold water fish
Fats to consume in minimal amounts:
- Refined oils
Overall, the key is balance. Worrying about consuming too much or too little fat can just take away from your emotional health, and add more stress. Eat with mindful attention as much as possible, and try to balance out the ice cream with your salmon dinner.
*Keep in mind, some products that highlight that they are low in fat, are actually really high in sugar!
Haas, Elson M., Staying Healthy with Nutrition. Berkeley, CA: Celestial Arts, 1992.
Holford, Patrick. The Optimum Nutrition Bible. Berkeley, CA: The Crossing Press, 2004.