We have come to understand that fats are indeed essential for optimal health and the ‘Low fat’ diet trend from years back to improve heart health and decrease obesity was actually doing us more harm than good.
Yes, a diet high in unhealthy fats will increase inflammation, cholesterol and put strain on your health however, for us to function at our best, a good amount of healthy fat is required.
So which fats are classified as good and which fats should we avoid? Let’s take a look.
There are 4 different type of fats we come across in our food
1. Monounsaturated fat: Liquid at room temperature but solid when refrigerated. These are fats like olive oil, avocado oil, nut and seed oils. These fats contribute to healthy cholesterol levels and a happy heart. They also reduce the risk of stroke, improve insulin resistance, and reduce belly fat. Keep them as a staple in your kitchen.
2. Polyunsaturated fats: This one is tricky. Natural polyunsaturated fats are found in fatty fish like sardines, salmon, etc as well as nuts and seeds such as flaxseed, hemp seed and walnuts. These fats promote healthy cholesterol and calm inflammation. The problem is when eaten in a highly processed form they become incredibly bad for you and increase inflammation in the body. Processed forms that SHOULD BE AVOIDED are canola oil, soybean oil, safflower oil and vegetable oil.
3. Trans Fats: The worst of the worst. These fats have been chemically altered by adding hydrogen molecules to it. This increased their shelf life but unfortunately, their dangers too. This fat promotes inflammation, raises bad cholesterol (LDL) and lowers good cholesterol (HDL) which leads to heart disease. Unfortunately, this is the kind of fat you find in fryers in most restaurants and fast food stores. When purchasing packaged food, ALWAYS READ THE LABEL. These fats are found on the ingredients list as ‘hydrogenated vegetable oil, partially hydrogenated oil and shortening’. It is found in so many packaged foods, even ones you would not expect. Some of the more common foods that include trans fats are margarine, sandwich spreads, peanut butter, creamers and many baked goods like cookies, cakes, and potato chips.
4. Saturated Fats: Solid at room temperature and liquid when heated. These fats may have gotten a bad rep in the past, but they are important to the optimal function of so many bodily functions such as our immune function, cellular health, hormone health and brain function. Saturated fats increase good cholesterol (HDL) and promote a happy heart. You can find these fats in food like ghee (Clarified butter), coconut oil, eggs, and meat.
Even though many of these fats are good for our health, we want to make sure we are getting them from high quality, clean sources and incorporating them into a balanced diet.
The thing about fats is that they can be good for you in one form but cause harm in another. This is the case when we heat fat past its smoke point.
When frying or sautéing foods it is best to use oils with a high smoke point like coconut and avocado oil or ghee. For medium to high heat like oven roasting it is best to use olive or peanut oil. For dressings or finishing walnut, sesame, flax and macadamia nut oil are great.
I hope this has given you some clarity on a topic that can often be quite confusing. Remember, don’t fear the fat, it is your friend if you choose it wisely.
If you would like more information on the best way to use various fats and oils or have any questions concerning your current fat intake please reach out to me and together we can fuel your body with foods that unleash an UNLIMITED YOU!