December 2, 2019
Fat 101: The Good, The Bad, and The Swaps
While the reputation is getting better with a boom in high-fat diets, fats have received a bad rap in the past. They were thought to cause weight gain and were not always considered a healthy part of a balanced diet. However, with all the information we now have on fats, we know that this simply isn’t the case. There are plenty of healthy fats that make a nutritious addition to every diet, and we’re breaking down what you need to know.
Read on to learn about why fats are important, which fats you want more of, and which you should be avoiding.
Why Fats are Important
First, let’s talk about why fats are important. For one, the brain needs fat to function. With nearly 60% of the brain made up of fat, it makes sense that if we don’t eat the fats we need, we may wind up feeling sluggish, with a serious case of brain fog.
We also need fat for things like:
- The absorption of fat-soluble vitamins
- Hormone production
- Cell growth
- Energy support
Ok, so we get that we need fats to support optimal health, but what fats should we be focused on? We want to focus on getting the most nutritious fats in our diet as we can. These include things monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats.
Let’s break down a little more about each of these:
Monounsaturated Fats: Another group of fats includes monounsaturated fats, which have been found to support healthy cholesterol levels, which can in turn, lower your risk of cardiovascular disease, and type 2 diabetes. Foods like avocados, nuts, and sesame oil are rich in this type of healthy fat.
Polyunsaturated Fats: These fats are primarily found in plant-based foods, which have also been found to help support healthy cholesterol levels when consumed instead of saturated fats. Walnuts, sunflower seeds, and flaxseeds are all great sources of polyunsaturated fats.
Omega-3 fatty acids are examples of polyunsaturated fats. These particular fats are needed to support heart health, brain health, and to decrease inflammation. They are mostly found in fatty fish like wild-caught salmon and sardines, but they can also be found in plant-based foods like walnuts, chia, and flax seeds. You can also get omega-3 fatty acids from a high-quality fish oil supplement to support heart health and lower your inflammatory load.
Now, not all fats are created equal, and while some fats can help support health, these are the fats that can cause way more harm than good. Here are the fats you will want to avoid.
Trans & Hydrogenated Fats: These are inflammatory fats that have been made from oils during food processing through what’s called partial hydrogenation. These fats are known to increase your risk of cardiovascular disease, high cholesterol, and high triglyceride levels. These are commonly found in crackers, pastries, vegetable shortening, margarine, and coffee creamer. Avoid anything that says “trans fats”, “hydrogenated”, or “partially hydrogenated”.
Saturated Fats: Saturated fats mostly come from animal products like bacon and red meat. Too much has been linked to an increase in cholesterol and can thus increase your risk of cardiovascular disease.
Good Fat vs. Bad Fat Swap Hacks
Now that you know more about the fats you want and about the fats you want avoid in your diet let’s take a look at some healthy swaps. Instead of using the bad fats, consider one of these swaps instead to help support better health and reduce your inflammatory load.
- Use ghee in place of margarine.
- Choose wild-caught fatty fish vs. red meat.
- Skip the packaged pastries and make a homemade almond flour recipe with ghee or coconut oil instead of vegetable oil.
- Use avocado oil instead of vegetable oil for cooking.
- Use full-fat coconut or almond milk instead of coffee creamer.
- Snack on nuts and seeds instead of crackers or cookies.
The Bottom Line
So, there you have it. The breakdown on what you need to know about fats, the good, the bad, and the swaps. By opting for healthy fat choices, you can help support your overall health, reduce inflammation, all while eating some pretty delicious foods.
Instead of looking at fat as the enemy, look at the fats that your body actually needs to thrive, while staying away from the choices that will only cause inflammatory chaos.