This week’s post is about fats. And if you’re like most people you’ve either already mentally shut this out, or you cringe when you hear the word. You fall into the ever so popular myth that fats are bad. While yes, most are not the greatest dietary choice, what most people don’t realize is that fat is a necessity in the diet, in much moderation of course, and that there are good and bad fats!! So right off the bat, if a diet completely cuts out fat…it’s probably not the healthiest.
So if fat is such an essential element to the diet, what does it do? Fat cushions and protects your body organs, protects your bones from getting injured, offers insulation which helps you to stay warm, and is in general just an extra layer of protection from injuries and the environment. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics sets the guideline that 20–35% of our total calories should come from fat. It also provides much of the yummy flavors that make food taste so good. But think about it, all the really bad foods tend to taste pretty good, right?? It’s because of all the fats! Also just a note for you cooks out there, while getting low-fat cheese can be a good idea if you’re just using it for cold consumption – by itself, on a sandwich, etc. – if you’re using it for a recipe that is cooked, make sure the cheese at least has some fat because the fat is what makes the cheese melt!! So if you get fat-free cheese and try to bake lasagna or something in the oven, it won’t melt, so be aware of that!
So what are the good and bad types?? Well, let’s narrow it down to 3 types:
Monounsaturated (MUFA), Polyunsaturated (PUFA) and saturated fat (SATFA). MUFAs and PUFAs are healthy fats that are good to have in your system, and can contain additional benefits for those watching their cholesterol! The easiest way to tell the difference is that the good fats are for the most part liquid at room temperature and are oils; like avocado and olive oil. Saturated fats should be avoided if at all possible, and are generally solid at room temperature, such as lard. But it’s also important to be careful that you replace your saturated fats with something healthy, and don’t replace it with some other processed carb that is just as bad.
Another really easy way to get good fats into your diet are with the ever popular terms these days, Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids. I’ll do another post separately on these because there is so much information out there, but basically look for these in salmon and tuna. It’s recommended that fish is eaten 2-3 times a week.
There is so much information out there on fats, both good and bad…but what it boils to, as most things in nutrition are, go as unprocessed as possible!