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  • Maegan McBroom, 500RYT, CHES

Let’s Talk Fats

Everyone’s diet should contain 20-35% (44-77 grams based on a 2,000 calorie diet) of fats with no more that 20 grams of that coming from saturated fats. Fats provide a feeling of fullness and calories. Fats also help you absorb and provide essential vitamins and nutrients that your body needs.

The Good Fats: Poly- & Monounsaturated Fats

The simplest way to think of fats is to think of the oils and fats that you keep on your counter and in your cabinets. Polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats will remain liquid at room temperature. Some examples include: olive oil, canola oil, avocado oil and many more. Examples of foods that contain these kinds of fats are tofu. fatty fish like salmon and some nuts and seeds (walnuts, sunflower seeds). Ideally the majority of the fats that you intake would be these kinds of fats because they are beneficial to health. They reduce the bad cholesterol in the body and provide essential fatty acids that your body needs but doesn’t produce itself, such as omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids. Many studies suggest that these fats help with heart health, help prevent diseases like Alzheimer’s and dementia, help with infant development during pregnancy and breastfeeding,

The Bad Fats: Saturated Fat

Saturated fats are the fats that you see on your counters and in your cabinets that are solid at room temperature. Examples are foods like butter, cheese, beef, coconut oil and cream. Your body does not need any saturated fats to function. Saturated fats may increase the risk of heart disease by raising the bad cholesterol in the body. Saturated fat has also been associated with increased inflammation in the body and increased risk of diseases like Alzheimer’s and dementia. Consuming processed foods rich in saturated fats, including fast food and fried foods, has been consistently linked to an increased risk of obesity, heart disease, and numerous other health conditions

However, avoiding these foods is almost impossible and a lot of these foods may be our “favorite foods.” So, keeping saturated fats in your diet is possible and can be healthy. Coconut products, grass-fed whole milk products, and grass-fed meat are some examples of nutritious foods that contain saturated fats that may positively affect health. Some research has shown that full fat grass-fed dairy may have a neutral or positive effect on heart disease risk, and coconut oil intake has been shown to boost good cholesterol in the body.

The Bad Fats: Trans Fat

Trans fats are monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats that have a hydrogen atom added to their bonds to make their qualities more similar to a saturated fat (solid at room temperature). Examples include shortening, margarine, peanut butters and baked goods. Trans fats became popular because they are easy to use, inexpensive to produce and last a long time. Trans fats give foods a desirable taste and texture. Many restaurants and fast-food outlets use trans fats to deep-fry foods because oils with trans fats can be used many times. Trans fats are extremely unique because not only do they increase your bad cholesterol, they can actually lower your good cholesterol. No amount of trans fats are safe to consume because of their potentially detrimental health effects including increasing your risk of heart disease and stroke, and increasing your risk of developing type 2 diabetes. It is very important to read the ingredients list on food items because if a food item contains less than 0.5 grams of trans fat it is not required that it be listed in the nutrition facts. When reading the ingredients list, search for the word “hydrogenated,” if you see this word it means this food item contains trans fats.

What now?

What research has shown to consistently be a disease-protective diet is a diet that is rich in nutritious, whole foods, especially high fiber plant based foods. So, watch what you eat, enjoy the foods you love and most importantly maintain balance in your diet and in your life.

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