For years, fat in foods was considered the enemy of weight loss and the root of many health causes. However, more and more studies are revealing that certain fats are good for you. Not only that, but that the right kinds of fats are essential for good health. Read below to learn more about fat power and how it works for your health.1
Unhealthy Fats And How They Affect You
There are two main types of fat that are commonly associated with negative effects on your health.
While some trans fats occur naturally in some animal products and will not harm your health, most trans fats are artificial and found in highly processed foods. They appear in the form of hydrogenated vegetable oils which can really damage your health, and therefore should be avoided.2
Consuming artificial trans fats may eventually lead to issues such as:
- Cholesterol issues
- Insulin issues
- Weight gain3
These unhealthy trans fats can be found in:
- Commercially baked goods
- Margarine (make sure there are no hydrogenated oils in it)
- Fried foods
- Refined and processed foods with hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oil4
Saturated fats are not as unhealthy as trans fats. However, they may damage your cholesterol levels, so limiting their intake is generally recommended. That’s largely because reducing saturated fats is associated with improved cardiovascular health.5 An extensive study found that people who replaced saturated fats with polyunsaturated fats over a one-year period greatly reduced their risk of cardiac heart disease.6,7
Some foods that can be high in saturated fats are:
- Red meat
- Chicken skin
- Ice cream8
The Good Fats
Now, on to the good fats which make up an essential part of a well-balanced diet.
Monounsaturated Fats And Polyunsaturated Fats
Monounsaturated fats are found in both animal and plant-based foods. However, the healthier version of monounsaturated fat tends to come from plants and vegetables. These fats may help support heart health. A common source is extra virgin olive oil.9,10
Polyunsaturated fats are an essential fat. That means they are required for bodily functions, and that your body cannot naturally produce them. They must be absorbed through the food you eat. These fats are essential for muscle movement and for overall health.11
These healthy fats can be found in a wide range of foods. Below you can find a few of the most common. Talk to your doctor or a nutritionist to get a complete rundown on which are best for your diet.
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil 12
- Avocados 13
- Nuts and nut butters 14
- Fatty fish 15
- Cheese 16
- Coconuts and Coconut Oil 17
The Health Benefits Of Healthy Dietary Fats
Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are generally considered “good” fats because they offer a variety of health benefits.
Some potential benefits include supporting:
- The absorption of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, K, and E
- Skin and hair health
- The production of essential fatty acids linoleic and linolenic acid for proper blood clotting, among other things 18
Healthy, plant-based fats can be helpful when it comes to weight loss. These fats can do a good job of making you feel full after a meal. As such, you may be less likely to eat more, which might in turn, encourage weight loss.19
The Role Of Dietary Fats In Exercise
Contrary to what you might think, healthy dietary fat is crucial to weight loss. That’s because it’s one of your body’s main sources of energy. Consuming healthy fats may give you the boost you need to get in that fat burning zone and burn those extra calories.20
Regardless of whether you want to gain muscle mass or train for a marathon, dietary fats may also help enhance your workout or support your physical performance.21,22,23
The Real Culprit: Caloric Intake And Its Role In Weight Gain
Fat, carbohydrates, and protein all provide calories to the body. These calories ultimately dictate how much weight you gain or lose.
When food companies remove fat from foods to make them “low-fat,” they have to replace it with something else. Typically, the substitute is sugar or refined carbohydrates, which still add calories to your diet.24
So, replacing healthy fats for “low-fat” foods does not necessarily mean you’ll lose weight. That’s because the natural fat found in “low-fat” foods is often replaced with carbohydrates that still have lots of calories. You are essentially swapping one source of weight gain for another.25
And, even if low-fat dieting helps you lose weight, it doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily healthy for you in the long-term. That’s because your body requires fat to absorb nutrients into the system for proper cardiovascular, bone, and organ health.26
Focus On Whole-Foods And Healthy Fats
Instead of counting calories or searching for low-fat foods, you can easily improve your diet with some small changes. Include healthy fats in your diet by relying more on fats from healthy foods like avocados, certain nuts, some fish, and others. This doesn’t require you to read any labels or count fat content. That’s because there are little or no unhealthy saturated or trans fats to count in these types of whole-foods.27
Fat To The Rescue
It may seem a little counterintuitive to seek out fat in your food. But, lots of recent research points to fats as a crucial part of a well-balanced diet. Healthy dietary fats provide essential nutrients and energy to your body.
Choose foods that provide lots of monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats. These fats may help support heart health and cholesterol levels and promote fat loss. The great news is that it’s easy to find these fats in lots of plant-based foods, vegetables, and certain fish.
Speak to your doctor or nutritionist to discover what foods and dietary fats are best for you. The sooner you add them to your diet, the sooner you can start to enjoy all their great health benefits.