Today, we’ll be continuing our discussion about fats. If you haven’t yet, check out last week’s post where we looked at how fats became demonized in our diets and had a closer look at the one fat you should avoid (hint: it’s trans fats).
Now, we’ll take a look at the three remaining kinds of fat
If trans fats are the Voldemort of the dietary world, saturated fats are more like Professor Snape – not great in large doses, but somewhat vital for your well-being. Fats are slowly absorbed which keeps you feeling full longer, they are important carriers for fat soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K, and they are also needed for mineral absorption and numerous other biological processes. Saturated fats are usually found in animal products like beef, lamb, poultry, butter, cream cheese and other dairy products, but you can also find them in things like avocados, coconut oil and palm oils.
Saturated fat is a fundamental building block for brain cells. It’s certainly interesting to consider that one of the richest sources of saturated fat in nature is human breast milk.
– David Purlmutter
Saturated fats, especially in large quantities, can be bad for you because they raise your LDL cholesterol (also known as the ‘bad’ kind of cholesterol) levels. So, while saturated fats do provide some health benefits, the FDA recommends limiting your intake to around 10% of your daily caloric needs. If you already struggle with high cholesterol, the recommendation is for saturated fats to make up no more than 3-5% of your daily caloric intake.
Polyunsaturated fats are omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids. Both are essential fats meaning that the human body is unable to make them on its own and, as a result, we must get them from food. It is important to note that both omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids are considered ‘good’ fats and ideally, your intake of both should work out to a ratio of 1:1. Alas, with our modern diets, the typical ratio is a whopping 15:1 (15 omega-6 to 1 omega-3)! This imbalance can create inflammation in the body which can contribute to complications such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and certain autoimmune diseases.
Omega-6 fatty acids are mostly found in corn, soy, sunflower, and safflower oils and are already abundant in our diet as they are typically found in most fast and processed foods. Omega-3 fatty acids, on the other hand, are found in fish and fish oils, flax seed, chia, and pastured raised (note that this means no factory-farmed sources) meats and eggs. The best and easiest way to address this imbalance is to reduce your intake of fast and processed foods (which will also help with those pesky trans fats) and increase your intake of fish, flax seed and other good sources of omega-3.
Now, for the really good stuff, the Harry Potter of the fats world, if you will – monounsaturated fats! Also known as MUFAs (Monounsaturated Fatty Acids), these are considered ‘good’ fats and are the ones your doctor wishes you’d eat more of. Typically liquid at room temperature and solid when chilled, good examples of MUFAs are olive, sesame and avocado oils. Non-liquid forms of monounsaturated fats are found in foods like avocados, peanut butter, and nuts such as almonds, pecans, cashews, and macadamias. Overwhelmingly, this is the kind of fat you want the most of in your diet because it packs a wallop of health benefits including decreasing the risk of breast cancer, reducing cholesterol levels, lowering the risk for heart disease and stroke, minimizing stiffness from arthritis, and helping with weight loss and belly fat.
We need fat in our diets and using the healthier fats is key.
– Todd English
The Bottom Line
What does all of this mean for you?
The short answer: avoid all trans fat and minimize processed foods in your diet as much as you possibly can.
The longer answer: minimize saturated fats (but you don’t have to eliminate them entirely), try to balance out your polyunsaturated fats for a better ratio of omega-6 to omega-3, and increase the amount of monounsaturated fats in your diet.
Here at Rich Thomas, we would never dream of telling anyone that they can never again eat a hamburger or that we’re outlawing cookies (life is too short to avoid all indulgences!). What we want is to help you make more informed decisions about what you are putting into your body so that you can live life with robust energy and health. By consuming more of so-called ‘good’ fats such as those found in avocados, olive oil, nuts and seeds, you will go a long way towards creating good health and preventing disease.