Good vs Bad Fats: Taking the Fear Out of Fats

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Raise your hand if you’re a little afraid of the word “fats”?

Many of us have been trained our entire lives that fats make you gain weight, clog your arteries, and put your health at serious risk.

But fats have been terribly misunderstood and, as you are about to see, not all fats are created equal. There are, in fact, some ‘good fats” which we need for optimal wellness.

Healthy fats give you energy and support heart and brain function, helping to improve mental and physical performance while even improving body composition.*

Today I’m going to share with you the benefits of “good fats”, how to know which fats to add to your diet and which ones to avoid, and which foods are rich in these good fats.

What Are Fats?

Fats are nutrients, just like proteins and carbohydrates, and our bodies need them to function optimally.*

Our body cannot make certain types of fat which means we have to get them from our diet. These fats are called essential fats. The two most important essential fats are alpha-linoleic acid and linoleic acid.* You may know these fats as omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.*

A major reason fats have a bad reputation is because they are more calorie-dense than the other two macronutrients. While protein and carbohydrates have four calories per gram, fat has nine calories per gram – more than twice as many calories by weight compared to the proteins and carbohydrates. This has led many people to avoid fats, thinking the higher calorie content is bad for them.*

What Are Fats Good For?

The truth is, fats play an important role when it comes to energy. When you exercise, your body burns carbohydrates first (for example the banana or oatmeal you ate before you hopped on the treadmill). And after twenty minutes of continuous, moderate activity, your body taps into the fat stores in your body to keep you going.*

Fats are also extremely helpful when it comes to keeping your hair and skin healthy.*

Another benefit of fats? They help you absorb vitamins and minerals. Many vitamins, like vitamins A, D, E, and K, need fat to be broken down to be utilized in your body.*

Otherwise, your body just gets rid of them and you don’t get any of the important benefits from these vitamins (so you have essentially wasted your money if you are getting these vitamins through nutritional supplements).

But before you use this as a rationalization to eat a plate of fried food, it’s important to remember not all fats are good fats.

There are two main types of fats, saturated and unsaturated fats. There are also trans fats which are created when vegetable oil goes through a hydrogenation process.*

Hydrogenation causes fat to harden and become solid at room temperature (think of Crisco). By doing this, foods can be stored for longer periods and have a longer shelf life.

And then there are monounsaturated fats, polyunsaturated fats, and long-chain versus short and medium-chain fats.

It’s safe to say it’s difficult to clump all fats as good or bad, so I’m going to share some ways to tell them apart and which good fats to make sure to include in your diet.

Saturated Fats and Trans Fats

Certain types of saturated fats can cause your LDL cholesterol levels to rise. LDL cholesterol is considered the ‘bad’ cholesterol and can clog your arteries and increase your risk for serious cardiovascular issues.*

Examples of saturated fats include most dairy products, fatty meats, and fried foods.*

Trans fats are known to increase your risk of blood sugar issues as well as heart-related problems.* Fried foods, margarine, and oils that are solid at room temperature have higher levels of trans fats.

When checking food labels for fat content, don’t be fooled by the term “partially hydrogenated oils”…this is just a fancy term for trans fats.*

Medium-Chain Triglycerides (MCTs)

When talking about saturated fats, it’s important to note there are several types of saturated fats. Saturated fats are made up of a chain of triglycerides, and these chains are differentiated into three categories: long, medium, and short-chain triglycerides.

Your body makes short-chain triglycerides (or short-chain fatty acids) when you break food down inside the digestive tract. Short-chain triglycerides can play a major role in maintaining healthy gut bacteria and can be found in fiber-rich foods.*

When it comes to medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), coconut oil, palm kernel oil, and raw coconut meat are all high in MCTs. There are also many supplements available that contain partially man-made MCTs.*

MCTs can help improve metabolism which may help with weight loss. They’ve also been shown to improve exercise performance and so thanks to this, an increase in metabolism too.*

One way researchers think MCTs do this is by improving the gut microbiome.*

Since they are shorter in structure, MCTs are easier for your body to absorb and put to good use since your body doesn’t have to work as hard to break them down.*

MCTs may also help reduce overall food intake by improving satiety, which is the signal your brain gives your body that you’re full. And MCTs can help make you feel fuller more quickly (making it easier to stick to your diet goals).*

MCTs have also been shown to benefit your health more so than long-chain triglycerides, including heart health benefits.*

Omega Fats

Omega-3 fatty acids are unsaturated fats that have been shown to provide a wide range of health benefits including improved cholesterol balance. Omega-3s also can help protect the membranes around your cels, especially the ones found in your eyes and brain.*

Omega-3s also give your brain, immune system, heart, blood vessels, and endocrine system energy.*

Here are some foods high in omega-3 fatty acids:**
  • Fish – especially fatty cold-water fish like salmon, trout, sardines, and herring
  • Avocados
  • Flaxseed
  • Chia seeds
  • Walnuts

Research has shown eating foods high in omega-3 fatty acids reduces your risk of serious cardiovascular issues compared to those who don’t eat these healthy fats regularly.*

Fats Are Your Friend

Hopefully, this article helps take some of the fear out of fats. They play an important role in our nutritional needs and not all are created equal. Good fats like MCTs and omega-3 fatty acids help your body function and are full of benefits for your heart and brain.

Learn more about delicious and convenient ways to add more healthy MCTs to your diet,

Wishing you health and happiness,

-Naomi

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