Kirstin Schell RHN

The truth about fats

You may have been led to believe fat is bad for you but the truth is your body needs it to function optimally
4 min
Fat is a source of energy; it also helps you absorb vitamins and minerals, assists in maintaining hormone balance, supports immune system function and does so much more.

Believe it or not, eating fat can actually help you lose weight by helping keep your blood sugar in check and keeping you feeling satisfied for longer. Satiating fat leaves you feeling full, which in turn means you are more likely to avoid unhealthy snacks or second helpings.

However, not all fats are created equal as some have major health benefits and others aren’t so great for your overall health. Here is a breakdown of the four types of fats:

Trans fats
Trans fats are unhealthy. They are most commonly found in processed foods such as fried fast food, cookies, breads and crackers. Trans fats are linked to coronary artery disease and high cholesterol.

Saturated fats
Saturated fats occur naturally and can be found in foods that come mainly in animal sources. Examples include beef, lamb, pork, poultry with skin, lard and cream, butter, cheese and dairy products. Saturated fats have been the most vilified fat source since the 1970s, but many experts are now changing their tone. Although processed, junk and fast foods should always be avoided. There is place in a healthy diet for some saturated fats as mentioned in the preceding list.

There are now studies showing that choosing full fat dairy options over fat-free actually equates to a lower weight and risk of diabetes. The main reason is that we tend to replace less fat with more sugar (for example, choosing low fat chocolate milk over whole milk thinking it is a healthier choice), which causes larger blood sugars swings and cravings for more sugar.

Polyunsaturated fats
Polyunsaturated fats are recommended as part of a balanced diet as they help manage cholesterol and lower triglycerides. They are commonly known as omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids and can have a beneficial effect on your heart and body when eaten in moderation. Omega-3 and 6 are quite different fats however, and we want to focus on consuming more Omega-3 anti-inflammatory fats in the way of fish like salmon, mackerel as well as algae.

Omega-6 fats are not inherently unhealthy, but due to over consumption of canola and vegetable oils, our ratio of 3 to 6 Omega fats is now leaning far too heavily in the 6 direction. We should keep Omega-6 fat sources like vegetables, nut and seeds in our diet and look to reduce store bought snacks, salad dressings and granola bars as much as possible to move the polyunsaturated fat ratio in the right direction.

Monounsaturated fats
Monounsaturated fats are also considered good fats as they can have a beneficial effect on your heart health, improve insulin sensitivity and may even help in cancer prevention when eaten in moderation. This type of fat has many nutrients and antioxidants and will help improve blood cholesterol levels. They’re found in olives (and its oil), avocados and most nuts.

Your fat intake should make up somewhere between 20-35% of your daily calories depending on your intake of the other macronutrients, protein and carbohydrates. Your fat choices should come as much as possible from whole foods options and little or none from processed, packaged or fast food.

While fat is an important part of a healthy diet, it's as important not to get too much as it is not to get too little. Eating too much fat can lead to weight gain and health problems. Limiting your daily fat intake to the recommended allowance will ensure you get all the benefits without the problems!

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