The Skinny on Fats: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
You've been hearing a lot about FAT in the news these days. And what's out there is really confusing. So I'm going to break it down real easy for ya.
Fats have gotten a bad rap these days. Many of those who want to achieve a healthier weight, clean up their diet, or lower cholesterol levels may consider cuttin gout dietary fat as the first step. And who could blame you? It's been drilled into us for years that if you eat fat, you'll be fat. However, dietary fat is actually ESSENTIAL to our health - it plays a critical role in almost every function of your body's metabolism.
Decoding Healthy vs. Unhealthy fats
The TYPE of fat you eat is just as important, if not more so, than the amount of fat. In fact, many fat sources may actually improve heart health, support healthy immune function and help food to be more satsifying, making it less likely you will overeat at your next meal. Talk about a win-win! Fat falls into 3 general categories: unsaturated fat, saturated fat and trans fats.
Unsaturated Fat - "The Good Guys"
Unsaturated fats include both monounsaturated fats and poly-unsaturated fats. Both types lower disease risk, improve cholesterol levels and have anti-inflammatory properties. Unsaturated fats are found in nuts and seeds, plant oils, avocado, soymilk and fatty fish. Omega-3 fatty acids (found in walnuts, canola oil and fatty fish) is a type of polyunsaturated fat well known for its anti-inflammatory properties. Omega-3s have been found to lower blood pressure and heart rate, lower triglycerides and prevent the development of atherosclerosis.
Saturated Fat and Trans Fats "The Bad Guys and the Really Really Horrible Guys"
Saturated fats are found in animal products such as meat and poultry skin, as well as high fat dairy products and butter. These items should be eaten sparingly, as these are the ones linked ot increasing total cholesterol and LDL (bad) cholesterol levels and may increase your risk of developing type 2 Diabetes. Trans fats are artificially processed fats that are often listed on food labels as "partially hydrogenated oils" and are found in packaged/processed food, fried foods and stick margarine. Saturated fats and trans fats tend to be solid at room temperature as opposed to liquid mono or polyunsaturated fats like olive oil or canola oil. Now think what that's doing in your arteries! Trans fats in particular, have been found to be the most dangerous category of fat in terms of its effect on raising cholesterol, increasing inflammation in the body and causing plaque buildup in the arteries.
How to get more healthy fat in your diet
Now here comes the fun part - how do you get to eat all this great stuff! Here are some tips for incorporating more healthy fats in your diet:
Sub chopped walnuts, almond or pepitas for salad croutons to add crunch and flavor
Keep a small handful of mixed nuts in a Ziploc bag for a filling on-the-go snack
Swap out mayo for mashed avocado or guacamole as a sandwich spread (my personal favorite!)
Use plant oils such as olive oil, instead of butter when cooking (but mind your portion sizes here - 1 tbsp of olive oil is worth 120 calories, so a little goes a long way. Lightly coat your veggies in oil, but don't smother them!)
Eat a fatty fish such as salmon, herring, or mackerel 1-2 times a week (no canned tuna DOES NOT count!)
Use soymilk instead of cream or half and half in your morning cup of joe!