Based on the knowledge Americans have had for decades, fat makes you fat. In truth, we need fat to be healthy, and yes, fat helps us lose weight. But if you're reading this you already had that hunch, right? 😉
Fat became maligned from a report the sugar industry paid Harvard University to produce back in the 1960's. The sugar industry wanted to look good, and fat became the scapegoat. The food industry then began replacing fat with sugar and refined carbohydrates. Reports of the research only came out in late 2016. In the fifty years, in between the research and the truth, the United States has seen an alarming rise in heart disease, obesity, diabetes, stroke, and Alzheimer's/Dementia.
Here’s the skinny on fats:
#1. Trans Fat
Our bodies number one offender — trans fats are not naturally found in our environment. They are created through the process of hydrogenation. It's a chemical process that changes liquid vegetable oil into solids, like margarine. Trans fat also prolongs shelf life of processed foods. They're found in bakery products both pre-made and in mixes, crackers, peanut butters and much more. The FDA has ruled that foods containing less than .5 grams of trans fats per serving do not need to be listed on a nutrition label. That's still too much. These fats are directly linked to heart disease; they increase bad cholesterol (LDL's) and decrease good cholesterol (HDL's). The only true way to know if trans fats are in your food is to read the ingredients. If it has palm oil, or lists hydrogenated, or partially hydrogenated oils, there's trans fats in that product. Move away from the shiny package…
#2. Saturated Fat
There is still a big debate here in many health organizations, R.D.'s and nutritionists. Saturated fat is known to support bones, liver, our immune system and neurological functions. It's naturally present in food, just limit your intake of them. Sure, coconut oil has incredible health benefits — but too much of anything is never good.
#3. "Good" Fat!
Essential Fatty Acids: Polyunsaturated Fats and Monounsaturated Fats. These are said to reduce the risk of blood clots, cancer, arthritis, support healthy cholesterol, and reduce high blood pressure.
A superstar fat is Omega-3. It's an essential fatty acid the body does not make. We get them in the form of supplements and through food. Because of how valuable they are to our health, they've also become a multi-billion dollar industry (chia seed bars, anyone?). The benefits of omega-3 include reduced inflammation, lessens the risk of arthritis, improved brain function, and are important for behavioral health in terms of depression and anxiety. Go get yours in the form of salmon and avocado!
So how much of our meals should be fat? Are there additional benefits? This definitely depends on your lifestyle, but many experts advise 1/3 of your plate should be healthy fats. This includes olive oil (instead of canola) and perhaps an avocado spread (instead of mayo!).