By VANESSA HAMPTON
If you are like me and grew up during, or lived through, the “Fat-Free Food Boom,” as described in
an article on npr.org, you were lead to believe that healthy eating meant eliminating all fats from
If the package said “fat-free” you had a green light to eat it without restriction.
Funny thing was, during my fat-free phase, as much as a I adhered to the policy, I never seemed to lose the weight I wanted and I didn’t feel good most of the time. I didn’t understand it. If healthy eating meant we aren’t eating fat, why wasn’t my body responding?
I remember always thinking that there was something wrong with me. I assumed that my body didn’t
work right, and I spent a lot of time being frustrated.
Well, the fact of the matter is, whoever the collaborators were that got together and decided that all fats are evil, were just plain wrong. More modern research has shown many times over now that not all fats are created equal and good fats are an essential part of a healthy diet.
It’s like this: our bodies require fats as a source of energy, as well as a means to insulate us and
protect our organs. It is also vital in helping our body absorb nutrients. As humans, we regulate our
energy through “The cycle of making, breaking, storing and mobilizing fats … An imbalance in any step (of this process) can result in disease, including heart disease and diabetes.” (nih.gov). Finding the right fats and consuming them in the right quantities for your body is key to keeping yourself healthy and feeling good.
When we eliminate fats from our diet, we deprive ourselves of absorbing the fat-soluble vitamins A,
D, E, and K. When we lack appropriate levels of these vitamins in our body, it can lead to serious
issues such as vision problems, poor blood clotting, bone softening diseases, muscle weakness, dry
skin and other skin conditions. YUCK!
And this is just the beginning.
Essential fatty acids that come from good fats help control the processes of vital organs and systems such as kidney and stomach, immune, and even blood pressure. A diet too low in fat will also wreak havoc on the hormonal balance in both men and women.
OK, so we get that we need enough of the good fats and that we should avoid the bad fats, but what
exactly qualifies a fat as “bad” verses “good?”
Trans fats are the bad fats that you want to avoid. Trans fats are primarily produced by chemically altering unsaturated fats. Companies like to use these in food products because they harden quickly and extend the shelf life of foods. Think about this. If it hardens quickly outside of your body, what do you think it’s doing inside your body? Yep … the same thing. This is what clogs arteries and raises bad cholesterol, creating a perfect storm of danger for your heart and your health.
Trans fats are found in food products such as margarine, commercially baked goods (like store-bought cookies and cakes), packaged foods (such as pizzas and frozen dinners), fried foods, and fast food sandwiches. To avoid these harmful fats, your safe bet is to choose unprocessed, fresh foods as much as possible.
Good fats are the ones that we absolutely need in our every day. Monosaturated and polyunsaturated fats are the ones we want to lean toward most often. These include things like olive oil, coconut oil, nuts, seeds, avocado, and eggs (the yellow middle is what contains the good fats). Omega-3 fats are another necessary good fat found in fish and walnuts. Saturated fats such as those found in cheese, butter, and meats are good sources of fat, but should be limited.
Balance in all things is what we should strive for and this is no different for how much fat we should
consume. The American Heart Association recommends no more than 20-35% of our daily calorie
intake should be from fats. An easy way to gauge how much fat to consume is to use your thumb as
a measure and aim for 4-6 thumbs per day of healthy fats.
Look to create a balanced plate at each meal including those good fats. Being intentional about
consuming them with each meal will pay off. You will not only notice that you stay satisfied longer
between each meal, but you will find more consistent energy throughout your day.
So, be kind to
your body and don’t skip the fats!