To keep in theme with my past two blog posts which touched on processed and unprocessed foods, today we’ll be learning about different types of fats and why some fats have been deemed “good” or “bad.” In terms of calories, fat is fat – each gram of fat provides 9 calories. The chemical composition (saturated or unsaturated) of the fat is how we distinguish fats and determines what they do in our bodies. Along with lean protein and veggies, you should try to include fat from a healthy source at every meal, every day. One serving size of fat is one thumb for women and two thumbs for men.
Three types of fats are commonly found in the diet: saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated (omega-3 and omega-6). You will find these fats in processed and unprocessed foods. As you can guess, it is recommended that most of your dietary fat come from whole, unprocessed foods. Dr. John Berardi of Precision Nutrition recommends consuming a third of your total daily fat from each of these three types of fats: 1/3 saturated fat, 1/3 monounsaturated fat, 1/3 polyunsaturated fat (mostly omega-3). There are, of course, trans fats, which for the most part (with the exception of some meats and butterfat) do not occur in nature.
For years saturated fat has been deemed “bad” by scientists and doctors, however it has recently been discovered that saturated fats aren’t all that “bad” – if they’re consumed as whole, natural (not man-made) foods. Saturated fats come from animal fats (meat, eggs, and dairy) as well as tropical oils like coconut, and these fats are solid at room temperature. Saturated fats are also found in TONS of processed foods, and that is when saturated fats become “bad.” I can’t say it enough – LIMIT PROCESSED FOODS!
Monounsaturated fats are often referred to as “healthy” or “good” fats. This is because they help protect against heart disease, improve insulin sensitivity, improves mood, and strengthens bones. Monounsaturated fats can be found in nuts and nut butters, avocados, olives, and olive and peanut oils. When cooking with oils, it is important to be aware of their smoke points, as using very high heat with an oil that has a low smoke point will burn the oil, causing toxic compounds and, if it is an omega-3 oil, break down into trans fat. The best oils for cooking at high heat (heat-frying and stir-frying) are sesame and peanut, while olive oil is ideal for sautéing over medium heat.
Polyunsaturated fats are found in most plant-based oils (soybean, corn) and some fish like salmon and albacore tuna. The majority of polyunsaturated fats consumed should be from omega-3 fats rather than omega-6 fats, as it has been discovered that too much omega-6 (a polyunsaturated fat) may be a contributor to coronary heart disease. While TOO MUCH omega-6 fats may cause health problems, we still need it in moderation.
To sum it up, fats are, in fact, not bad – our brains and bodies need them! Healthy nutrition is always about moderation and eating whole, unprocessed foods when possible. If you’ve shied away from fats in the past, hopefully this blog post has made nutritional fat less scary for you!
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