Updated: Aug 24, 2020
How can a three letter word be so confusing and terrifying? Easy! Marketing loves to send us on wild goose chases. But never fear, I've got the low down simplified just for you!
When I was a teenager in the mid to late 90's the "fat free" diets were in full swing. I have always been interested in being healthy and having the best fuel throughout the day but was I ever wrong about the myth of ALL fats being bad! I grabbed the things that had FAT FREE on the labels and had no clue I was eating foods that had been pumped full of additives to allow it to be stored in our cupboards for months on end. Fast forward a few years (we don't need to talk about how I am turning 40 next week!) where I have studied, read and watched many things about fat. I am going to break things down in order to explain.
Did you know your brain is comprised of 60 percent fat and has optimal functioning when it's burning fat? The type of fat we are consuming plays a HUGE role in our health and if you deprive yourself of it you are doing yourself a disservice. So let's go over the four different types of fats so you can make sure to put the good ones in daily.
Saturated fat- consist of carbon atoms saturated with hydrogen atoms and are solid at room temperature. You can find them in full fat dairy, coconuts, cow's milk, beef and poultry. It's been linked to heart disease if they are consumed in high amounts.
Monounsaturated fat- consists of one double-bonded carbon molecule. These fats start out as a liquid at room temperature but then become solid when chilled. Some sources of these fats come from olives, olive oil, nuts, avocados, seeds, sunflower oil, vegetable oil, and halibut. These fats are heart healthy and support good cholesterol, aka HDL, and lower bad cholesterol, aka LDL. Some mixture of these foods should be eaten daily.
Polyunsaturated fat- consists of more than one double-bonded carbon atom. They are liquid at both room temperature and when chilled. These fats are home to the omega 3, 6 and 9 fatty acids. The omega 3 fatty acids are the 'Allstars' as they help reduce the risk of depression, cancer, inflammation and support heart health. Some examples of these fats are salmon, sardines, trout, fresh tuna, flax seed, and walnuts. These fats also help raise HDL while lowering LDL.
Trans fat- Most of these fats are manmade by adding hydrogen bonds to liquid oils to allow the product to sit on a shelf longer. These fats are associated with heart disease and hardening of arteries. Typical places to find these fats are in frozen foods, fried food, chips, sodas, baked goods and margarine. These fats raise LDL and lower HDL. Try to avoid partially hydrogenated oils which you will find on the labels.
As you can see, not all fats are bad, in fact we need them for survival. Fat makes our food taste amazing and also takes longer to digest so it keeps us from reaching for more food sooner. They help to cushion our organs and let us absorb fat soluble vitamins. But like most things, too much can counteract all the amazing effects. Try to consume anywhere from 20% to 30% of your daily energy from healthy fats. I know it's beyond tempting to eat all those trans fats, but choosing the polyunsaturated or monounsaturated instead will actually fill you up and keep you healthy. Sprinkle some coconut flakes on your morning breakfast or put a handful of walnuts in your smoothie. Find a new salmon recipe to cook up for your dinner. Doctor Oz says he never leaves home without a small bag of nuts in his pocket. You never know when hunger will strike so having safety plans in place can help stop you from hitting up the vending machine.