Why Healthy Fats Don’t Make You Fat

healthy fatsIt’s time for fat to ditch it’s bad-boy reputation once and for all.

I promise you. Let me repeat that. I promise you, fat does not make you F-A-T. It made some kind of sense years ago to explore the idea that high fat foods turned to fat in our bodies, but that scientific pursuit just didn’t pan out.

Researchers even found out that a diet low in fat and high in carbohydrate actually causes weight gain.

We’re fat-smart now and we know that you need roughly 30% of your calories to come from fats (healthy fats!) in order for you to be your leanest and healthiest self. Here’s the skinny.

Why Healthy Fats Don’t Make You Fat

All Fats Are Not Created Equal

All this studying of fats and fatty acids has left us with the knowledge that all fats are not created equal.

First of all, stay away from trans fats altogether. They promote inflammation and are just awful for you overall.

The healthy fats I want in your diet are the monounsaturated, found in olive oil, avocado, flaxseed oil, and nuts, and the polyunsaturated in the form of omega-3s, like fatty fish (tuna and salmon), walnuts, eggs, and chia seeds. (Skip polyunsaturated in the form of processed vegetable oils like canola, sunflower, and safflower, which are made up of mostly omega-6 fatty acids.)  These healthy fats are linked to strong immunity, improved cardiovascular functioning, reduced inflammation, and improved brain functioning.

Now, for the most complicated fats: saturated. Saturated fats like those in coconut oil and butter (their fat compositions vary slightly but both are high in saturated) have long been linked to increased risk of heart disease and stroke. The American Heart Association reaffirmed that fact with a 2017 study.

However, many experts disagree with the report’s conclusions on a few fronts. First, the link is based on the reasoning that saturated fat raises total cholesterol levels, but many studies suggest the link between higher cholesterol numbers and heart disease risk has been overstated. And while LDL is often referred to as “bad” cholesterol, there are different types of LDL, and the total number may be less important than the composition of the actual particles. Small, dense particles are inflammatory and associated with heart disease risk, while larger particles are not.

Finally, many experts say studies on saturated fat often look at people eating it on top of an otherwise unhealthy diet—for example, alongside refined carbs, sugar, and not enough veggies and fiber—in which case it could certainly increase inflammation and heart disease risk. A reasonable portion of coconut oil on top of fibrous veggies (or grass-fed butter in a saute pan) in a low-sugar, whole foods, plant-based diet, however, comes with health benefits. My advice: think about saturated fat as part of your healthful diet but not as a main ingredient. Coconut oil is great, but it’s not kale.

Fat Helps You Absorb Vitamins

Eating fat helps your body absorb the fat soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. The deal is this: fat in your meal is going to help your body take in fat soluble vitamins. Your body stores excess fat-soluble vitamins (which is why over doing them in pill form can be toxic) in your liver and fat cells and then uses them as needed.

They are released slowly over time (unlike water soluble vitamins, which are excreted pretty quickly if you have enough in your system).

Fat Burns Fat, and Fat Burning Foods Exist!

True dat! It may not make sense to you, but dietary fat actually helps pull stored fat out of your cells to use for energy. Eating fat boosts metabolic health and helps to break down stored fat to get it out of your system. Say it out loud: fat helps you burn fat. Ahhh…

Fat is also your preferred energy source, so if you’re just hanging out, fat is the fuel that keeps your eyes blinking, heart beating and lungs respiring.

Fat Keeps You Feeling Satisfied

Think back to your high school chemistry class. Carbs are made up of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen molecules with simple single bonds connecting them.

These bonds are easily broken, and nutrients are quickly pulled into your blood. Not the case with our healthy fats! Fats have complicated double bonds, which require more time to break down in your belly and travel into your blood. This boosts satiety and keeps you full.

More satisfaction helps us to eat less, which is the first lesson in How to Lose Weight 101 and rock a healthy body.

There are more reasons that I heart fat (insulates the body from the cold and protects organs among a couple) but I hope you are convinced and converted.

In case you need a little fatspiration here are a few ways to get in at every meal:

Breakfast: Almond butter on ezekial toast

Snack: Low-fat Greek yogurt with shredded coconut

Lunch: Avocado on kale salad with sunflower seeds and olive oil

Snack: Peanut butter on high fiber crackers

Dinner: Grilled salmon over quinoa and sautéed red and yellow peppers

Enjoy fats as part of your healthy breakfast, healthy snacks, and overall healthy diet Happy, healthy eating!

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