Wouldn’t it be great if healthy eating was as easy as following clearly defined rules that worked for every situation?
Yeah, keep dreaming.
Nothing in life is that simple, least of all nutrition. Foods that we’ve happily eaten for centuries can quickly be vilified in diet books, causing them to vanish from store shelves – and no food group has been more affected by this trend than fat itself.
Not so long ago, many nutritionists believed that eating fat made people fat. But health science today provides a more nuanced view. Now, we know that the fat in your diet doesn’t directly lodge itself in your belly, and that many kinds are essential eating for a healthy diet. Dietary fat keeps your skin soft, your organs happy, nourishes your brain, and keeps your blood and muscles functioning properly. In fact, a healthy diet should consist of at least 10% fat every day.
That’s not to say ALL fat is good for you, though – the nutritionists got some things right the first time around. Some fats are far more beneficial for your body than others, and learning the difference between good fats and bad is an important way to make strides towards total health.
Trans Fats: The Bad Fats
By far, the most dangerous fats in food today are trans fats. Trans fats are a byproduct of hydrogenation, the process that turns liquid oils into solids to improve their shelf life. On labels, trans fats are usually listed as “partially hydrogenated oil.” Found primarily in processed foods, even small amounts of trans fats can increase your risk of chronic disease.
Eating foods with lots of trans fats directly increases inflammation, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and dozens of other dangerous conditions. In fact, research from Harvard Medical School recently found that for every 2% of calories in a diet that come from trans fat, your risk of heart disease rises by 23%. The simplest way to avoid trans fat is to only eat whole, unprocessed foods, like the kinds listed below. It is best to avoid ALL vegetable and seed oils, as they are heavily processes and denatured. This includes Canola, Corn, Cottonseed, Safflower, Sunflower, and Soybean oils.
The Healthy Fats
Unlike toxic trans fat, good fats abound in natural, whole foods like sprouted nuts and seeds, avocados, grass-fed meats, pasture raised chicken eggs, and wild-caught fish. Other sources of good fats include coconut oil and full-fat organic dairy (ideally raw and unprocessed) from grass-fed animals.
Saturated fat and cholesterol also get a bad rap in the mainstream media. However, saturated fat and cholesterol from the whole, natural foods listed above are quite beneficial. These healthy fats work wonders for your body by building up cell membranes and reducing inflammation. Inflammation from processed fats and sugar are ultimately what lead to a buildup of cholesterol in arteries – not the cholesterol itself.
Your body can’t make these fats for itself and needs to get them from your diet, which is why they are considered essential. Fat is of utmost importance to all cells of your body, especially the brain, which is composed primarily of fat, particularly cholesterol. By eating a combination of the foods mentioned above, you can assure your brain and all of your body’s cells are getting the nutrients they need to function optimally.
Keep Essential Fats in Your Life – and Your Diet
It’s time to change the bad rap around fat and regent the idea that all dietary fat is dangerous. Not only can fat be delicious, it’s also essential for good health. So long as you stick to natural fats and reject processed fat in all forms, you’ll be doing your body a big service by eating some fat every day.