The Skinny on Fat

When you need a quick snack, are you better off eating a handful of walnuts or a bowl of ice cream? (Read on for the answer!)

About 30% of our diet should consist of fat. This may seem contrary to what we have heard. However, a diet that does not include a variety of HEALTHY fats isn’t ideal either.

We need fat in our diets to provide energy; help manufacture and balance hormones; support our immune system; form our cell membranes, brains, nervous systems; transport fat soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K); and provide two essential fatty acids that the body can’t make.

There are three types of fats we will focus on:

  • Saturated
  • Monounsaturated
  • Polyunsaturated

Ideally, we should eat 1/3 of each type for best health.

The foods that provide these fats:

Saturated fats: animals (eggs, dairy, meats, butter, cheeses, etc.). Also, coconut oil, palm oil. If you choose to eat these oils, be sure to choose them in their most natural form—unrefined, whole, cold-pressed, extra-virgin. We typically eat an overabundance of foods containing saturated fats and not enough plant foods. These, combined with the many refined carbohydrates we consume (white sugar and flour), contribute to a long list of health problems.

Monounsaturated fats: macadamias, pecans, almonds, cashews, pistachios, tahini, pumpkin seeds, hazelnuts, olives, olive oil, avocados

Polyunsaturated fats: wild-caught fish, hemp seeds, algae oils, safflower oil, sunflower seeds, peanuts, canola oil, walnuts, flax seeds and oil, chia seeds, Brazil nuts

The easiest way to balance our heavy saturated fat intake is to focus on adding foods from the monounsaturated and polyunsaturated categories—so, eat a variety of nuts and seeds. And if you guessed that walnuts (polyunsaturated) are a better snack than ice cream (saturated), you are correct! We are trying to achieve better fat balance. You probably had animal (saturated) fat at a meal, and the sugar in the ice cream does nothing to promote good health. Sorry.

A word about trans fats: avoid them. These are processed fats that have hydrogen added to make liquid vegetable oils more solid. They are cheap, easy to make, and increase the shelf life of foods. ANY food that has partially hydrogenated or hydrogenated oil on the label should be avoided. These fats may contribute to high cholesterol, type-2 diabetes, cardiac and other chronic health issues. They interfere with fat metabolism and cause inflammation and pain. Trans fats are found in margarine, shortening, many fried and baked goods, such as donuts, crackers, cookies, pies, cakes, etc.

A great idea: eat mostly natural, unprocessed, whole foods. Oh, and eat more vegetables. I’ve yet to meet anyone who has told me they need to lose a few pounds because they eat too many greens.

 “Increase your consumption of healthful fats like extra virgin olive oil, avocado, grass-fed beef, wild fish, coconut oil, nuts and seeds. At the same time, keep in mind that modified fats like hydrogenated or trans fats are the worst choices for brain health.” –Dr. David Perlmutter, author of Grain Brain

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