For decades, fat was made out to be the enemy of health. However, science is now changing the way we view fat as a part of a healthy diet.
Like protein, fat is an essential nutrient. The body needs fat in order to function properly. For example, fat is necessary for the absorption of several vitamins like A, K, and E. Fat is critical for energy production, as well as, keeping hair and nails healthy. Even the brain needs fat in order to function!
Research has shown that eating a diet rich in good fats lowers risk for heart disease, obesity and type II diabetes complications. According to several studies, it is not the amount of fat you eat that affects health, it is the type of fat. There are several different types of fats, each found in a variety of foods. Some are better choices than others in terms of good health.
You may have heard that heart disease is the number one cause of death in the United States, killing over 600,000 people every year. What you probably don’t know is that individuals are three times more likely to die from insufficient intake of healthy fats than they are from excess intake of saturated fats!
In fact, according to the American Heart Association, new research has shown that replacing unhealthy fats in one’s diet with healthy fats can reduce cholesterol levels and heart disease risk as much as statins do. Research is finally proving that food can heal the body!
It is crucial to choose the right healthy fats in order to reap these benefits.
Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids are two “good fats.” These fats have been found to lower cholesterol and blood pressure levels, therefore, reducing risk of heart disease.
Monounsaturated fats can be found in a variety of nuts, as well as in avocado, peanut butter, and olive oil. Polyunsaturated fats, also known as omega-3 fatty acids, can be found in walnuts, and in fish like salmon and mackerel.
Did you know that when there is less fat in a product, there is usually more sugar? Fat tastes good! When processors remove the fat from a product, they replace it with sugar.
For example, full-fat yogurt contains approximately 11 grams of carbohydrates/sugar per serving. Low-fat yogurt contains upwards of 17 grams of carbohydrates/sugar. That’s a 50% increase in sugar content!
In full-fat dairy, there will always be naturally-occurring sugar in the form of lactose. However, when processors remove the fat, they replace it with sugar to help it taste better-that is where those additional 6 grams of sugar are coming from.
Fat fills you up, sugar does not. So, after you enjoy your container of low-fat yogurt, one hour later you’re hungry again and reach for another snack. The additional fat and protein in full-fat yogurt will keep your tummy feeling fuller longer.
Fermented foods like yogurt contain healthy bacteria that aid the body in several ways, from digestion to regulating cholesterol. Yogurt has been shown to reduce risk for heart disease, and kimchi to reduce risk of diabetes complications and obesity.
Avocados are an excellent source of heart-healthy fats and are also high in fiber. Avocados have been shown to reduce risk of hypertension, stroke, obesity, and other diseases. Consuming foods with high fiber content has also been shown to lower blood pressure, improve cholesterol levels, along with lowering and stabilizing blood sugar levels.
Just need a little snack? A handful of nuts is a great heart-healthy option. Walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, and pecans all contain the vitamins, minerals, and monounsaturated fats that contribute to heart health.
The lesson, my friends is this – good fats are crucial to optimal function of body and mind, and help you live your best health!