Oh Fats! What can one really say about them? We love to eat them…Chocolate, Cupcakes, Butter, Cream, Cheese…yet we hate them all at the same time! I am guilty of this without question…I would probably eat an entire ice cream cake if left to my own devices (assuming it’s Gluten Free) yet all the little lumps and bumps all over my body drive me insane. In the quest for greater health, I have learned that if I understand what my body needs, and what mother earth has provided us, I will be able to find a way to have good fat and eat it too!
Why do we need Fats?
Certain fats are required for good health, there are called Essential Fatty Acids, and cannot be produced by our bodies. Fats provide fuel to the bodily while assisting with vital tasks like the formation of cell membranes and tissue structure. It aids in the transport of nutrients and chemicals across cell membranes as well as the formation of hormones, and transmission of nerve pulses. Fat protects or vital organs while keeping them in place, serves as a shock absorber and protective shield against internal and external trauma, and even help the body control its temperature. Good fat will even help you LOSE unwanted fat!
What are Good Fats?
All fats fall into 1 of 2 categories : Saturated and Unsaturated
Unsaturated Fats – The “Good Guys”
Unsaturated fats include polyunsaturated fatty acids and monounsaturated fats. Both mono- and polyunsaturated fats, when eaten in moderation and used to replace saturated or trans fats, can help lower cholesterol levels and reduce your risk of heart disease. Polyunsaturated fats, which are mostly found in vegetable oils, help lower both blood cholesterol levels and triglyceride levels. Monounsaturated fats are thought to reduce the risk of heart disease and are typically liquid at room temperature but solidify if refrigerated. These heart-healthy fats are typically a good source of the antioxidant vitamin E. They can be found in olives; avocados; hazelnuts; almonds; Brazil nuts; cashews; sesame seeds; pumpkin seeds; and olive, canola, and peanut oils.
Saturated and Trans Fats – The “Bad Guys”
There are two types of fat that should be eaten sparingly: saturated and trans fatty acids. Both can raise cholesterol levels, clog arteries, and increase the risk for heart disease. Saturated fats are usually solid at room temperature and can be found in animal products (meat, poultry skin, high-fat dairy, and eggs) as well as in vegetable fats that are liquid at room temperature, such as coconut and palm oils. There are two types of trans fats: the naturally occurring type, found in small amounts in dairy and meat; and the artificial kind that occur when liquid oils are hardened into “partially hydrogenated” fats. Natural trans fats are of much concern, especially if you choose low-fat dairy products and lean meats. The real worry is the artificial trans fats which are thought to be the most dangerous of all fats.
How much Fat should I be eating?
The amount of fat one should be eating is going to depend on many different variables; Age, Activity Level, Over all Health, Personal Health and Fitness goals. As a general guideline it is recommended that no more that 20-30% of your daily calories should be from a fat source…the older you get and the less active you are the closer your should stay to the low-end of the scale. The best way to ensure you are getting the right types and amount of fat is to be conscious of everything you consume…become a label reader, and avoid as much “Fast” and “Processed” Foods as possible. If it has been created by man your body probably doesn’t need it (Nutella included!)