When it comes to fat, there is a lot of misinformation out there. While the word ‘fat’ typically has a negative connotation, good fats are actually an important piece of a healthy, well-rounded diet.

We are conditioned to believe that fat is the reason Americans are so overweight and sick. Because of this misconception, food brands are aggressively marketing low-calorie and fat-free foods. The purchase of these foods have sky rocketed in the last five years, leaving us to think,  “why is everyone still overweight and unhealthy?” The truth about fat is that it actually does not make you overweight or sick.

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Why Do We Need Fat?

Fat is essential for your body to function properly, it aids in everything from brain development to metabolism regulation and even heart function. Good fats play a massive role in our overall wellness. Incorporating healthy sources of fat into our diets is one of the most important things we can do as a nation to get our health back on track.

The Basics: Unsaturated, Saturated, and Trans Fats

To put it simply, there are three kinds of fats: Unsaturated, saturated, and trans fats.

Unsaturated fat is good for you. It raises good cholesterol levels, lowers bad ones, protects against plaque buildup, and strengthens your immune system. Quality sources of unsaturated fat include: walnuts, flaxseed, tofu, avocados, and olive oil. These types of fats are known as Omega-3 fatty acids. Other sources of unsaturated fats are corn, soy and safflower oil; although these are known as Omega-6 fatty acids. To maintain a healthy diet you want a 3:1 balance of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids.

Saturated fats have been considered unhealthy and the topic has become a little controversial. Mainstream advice claims that they raise your cholesterol and increase your risk of heart disease. However, their reputation is being reconsidered due to their potential health benefits. More on this debate shortly. Saturated fats come from sources including red meat, poultry, whole dairy, coconut oil and palm oil.

Trans fats are made from partially hydrogenating oils. They are used in processed foods like pastries, peanut butter, fries, margarine, cookies and frozen food. Trans fats are used to increase the shelf life of a food product, and are also used in certain fast food restaurants. While saturated and unsaturated fats are an important part of a balanced diet, trans fats are considered a serious health risk and should be avoided completely. So much so, that they are banned in many countries and the United States is working on banning them too. The best way to avoid this fat when buying packaged food is to look in the ingredient list for anything that says ‘hydrogenated’ or ‘partially hydrogenated’. Companies are allowed to label their products ‘zero trans fat,’ even if a serving has 0.5 grams of trans fat or less, so be sure to read the ingredient list thoroughly.

Fat Powers Fitness

Incorporating quality fats into your fitness routine can do wonders for your energy, stamina, and physique. Eating healthy fats gives you slow burning energy to tackle a long and exhausting workout. It can also helps in muscle repair and maintenance, which actually reduces body fat. 

Omega-3s are highly anti-inflammatory. High levels of inflammation are associated with muscle soreness and slow tissue repair. Omega-3s can combat this by improving blood flow to muscles during exercise, reducing swelling, and increasing range of motion after intense exercise. Omega-3s are known as essential fatty acids. This means that our bodies don’t make them on their own, so we must get them through our diets.

Saturated fats may play a powerful role in ramping up your fitness regimen too. Certain saturated fats have medium chain triglycerides (MCTs), meaning that their protein chain is shorter than typical fats. This chemical structure enables them to skip the typical laborious digestive process of fat, and sends them straight to the cells to be burned as fuel. This makes them readily available and potent sources of energy, which enables you to burn fat more efficiently. Good saturated fats include organic coconut oil, grass fed beef, clarified butter, and eggs from free-range organic chickens.

Great Healthy Fats

It should be made clear that fat does not make you fat. Sugar, refined carbohydrates, artificial additives, and hydrogenated oils make you fat. If you are actually concerned about your weight and seriously trying to slim down, going on a low fat diet will not help you if you are still eating packaged processed food and beverages. Moving towards a plant based diet and drinking lots of clean and pure water is the first step to take in getting your weight under control.

Foods rich in omega-3s that are most easily added to any recipe are olive oil, hemp seeds, and flaxseeds. In addition, coconut oil does well at high temperatures, you can sauté or roast vegetables in it for great flavor and a healthy dose of Omegas. One of the most popular sources of good fat is avocado because it can be added to almost anything. If you want to take a supplement, DHA fish oil is a great one to incorporate into your daily vitamin routine.

Eliminating bad fats from your diet and adding healthy ones will keep your heart and other vital organs running properly. The most important thing is to find sources of good fat that you enjoy eating and work on incorporating them into your diet everyday. Healthy fats are an absolutely necessary part of a vibrant and pure lifestyle.