Why do fats scare us so?
If you were to take a walk down the aisle of your grocery store, you will notice that we are obsessed with low-fat and no-fat foods. There are just so many seemingly healthier options to choose from: low-fat milk, no-fat chips and frozen foods. But surprisingly, with all these low-fat options obesity also seems opt be on the rise. Clearly, those low-fat foods have failed to deliver their slim, healthful promises.
What could be the reason? The fact of the matter is that not all fat is bad. Your body needs fats to function properly. Good fats play a crucial role in managing your weight, help balance your moods, give you energy and even get you to stay on top of your mental game. This is because the human brain is almost 60 percent fats, so you need healthy fats for its proper function and development.
So, the point is to make healthy choices by eating the right fats rather than cutting them out of your diet altogether.
Good fats vs. bad fats
There are four major types of dietary fats:
Good: monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats (including omega 3s)
Bad: trans fats
Debatable: saturated fats
However, simply labeling foods as “good” or “bad” can be very simplistic. After all, the fat content of food is not the only thing that determined whether it’s healthy or not. For example, you may think that fish is high in healthy omega 3 fats, but if you love deep frying it in vegetable oil you are adding unhealthy trans fats to the mix. Also, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats from whole foods may be counted as good fats but those from industrially refined oils are not so.
The saturated fat debate
Saturated fat is not all that bad. But since the mid-1950s it has received a bad rep for being unhealthy. It is still a matter of debate between nutrition experts as to which end of the spectrum does it fall under. We would suggest consuming it in moderation.
How to add healthy unsaturated fat to your diet
These good fats can regulate blood cholesterol levels, lower your risk of heart disease and improve insulin levels and blood sugar. Omega 3 fats are the best fats that benefit your brain and mood. The best sources are fish, nuts and seeds.
Best sources of monounsaturated fat are: Many vegetable oils like sunflower or safflower oil, as well as hazelnut, olive, canola, avocado, almond, peanut, corn, sesame, rice bran, soybean and cod liver oils are rich in monounsaturated fats. Hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, pecans, almonds, pistachios and cashews are great sources of monounsaturated fats.
Best sources of polyunsaturated fat are: Oils high in polyunsaturated fats include corn, soybean, safflower, sunflower and cottonseed. Pine nuts, walnuts and Brazil nuts are healthy sources of polyunsaturated fats as are fish, linseed and chia seeds.
When good fats go rogue
A good fat can become a bad fat when it is affected by heat, light or undergoes damage by oxygen.
- Always refrigerate polyunsaturated oils.
- Never cook unsaturated oils at high heat to stop the fat from being damaged.
- Throw away oils, seeds or nuts if they smell funny or taste bitter.