Top Benefits of Healthy FatsFor as long as people have been trying to lose weight and eating healthy, fats have been demonized in the modern American diet. We are told to eat less fat, cut fat out, or to go on one of those “low-fat’ diets. It seems like to be healthy you need to avoid fats at all cost and that fat leads to nothing but weight gain, clogged arteries, and heart failure.
Very rare do you hear someone say, “Did I consume enough fat today?”
With all the stereotypes that surround fat, you would be crazy to actually want to go out of your way to eat it, right?
But when we cut out all the fats from our diet, it does not make us healthier. In fact, it does quite the opposite.
The key to consuming fat without having it damage your health is to make sure you are eating the right fats and not over consuming them. Cutting out good fats is the last thing you want to do because you will miss out on a whole host of nutrients and benefits.
Can Fat Be Good For You?
There are many different kinds of fats, some of which you want to stay away from as they can be detrimental to your health. However, some fats are good for you, and you will want to include them in your daily diet.
Healthy fats are just as essential to your diet as any other macronutrient; this includes carbohydrates and protein. Fats can work to fuel your body with energy and provide it with vital nutrients.
These beneficial fats are found naturally in whole foods from both animal and plant sources, and consuming these right kinds of fat can keep your body running at full speed so you can live a long and healthy life. Knowing what type of fat you are consuming and how it can affect your body are crucial to maintaining a healthy diet.
Luckily, healthy fats are not too hard to find and are easily incorporated into any diet.
What Are Healthy Fats?
There are several different kinds of fat that we consume on a daily basis and knowing which of those fats are good for you can help you determine what foods you should be eating. Consuming the right balance of monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, and yes - even saturated fats - is essential for our health.
Most healthy fats come from fish, seeds, nuts, vegetables, and their cold pressed oils.
So, what are some healthy fats that you should include in your diet?
Monounsaturated Fat: Monounsaturated fat is found in a variety of oils and whole foods. It is considered a gold standard among healthy fats. When it is consumed in appropriate portions it can help you lower your cholesterol and decrease your risk of heart disease. It has also been shown to lower your risk of breast cancer, help with weight loss, balance blood sugar, and to have anti-inflammatory properties. Monounsaturated fats are moderately heat stable, so you can cook with them at low to moderate heat or consume them cold. Cooking them at too high temperatures can change their structure and void their health benefits.
Foods that contain monounsaturated fat are…
- Nuts (Almonds, Cashews, Pecans, Macadamia Nuts, etc.)
- Olive Oil
- Avocado/Avocado Oil
Polyunsaturated Fat: This fat mostly comes from plants and plant based oils. Polyunsaturated fats are made up of two different types of fatty acids: Omega-3 and Omega-6. Both Omega-3s and Omega-6s are considered essential fats, meaning that we need to consume them in our diet. These fats are very delicate compared to monounsaturated and saturated fats so it is not recommended to heat their oils.
Consuming Omega-3s can help lower blood pressure, reduce cholesterol, and decrease your risk of heart disease and stroke. They are essential for brain health and can even help slow down the decline of the brain associated with aging, such as improved memory and the ability to process information. Plus, Omega-3s can help prevent neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s and Dementia. Having the right balance of Omega-3s can help balance our mental health and prevent issues such as depression. Besides this, they are involved in the health of our nerves, skin, eyes, and other tissues.
Deficiencies of Omega-3s are very common because they are not present in high amounts or in a large variety of foods. Foods that contain Omega-3 include…
- Wild Fish (Salmon, Mackerel, Tuna, White Fish, Sardines, Anchovies)
- Fish Oil/Krill Oil
- Flaxseed/Flaxseed Oil, Chia Seeds, Hemp Seeds, Pumpkin Seeds
- Small Amounts in Egg Yolks, Grass Fed Dairy/Beef
The other type of polyunsaturated fat is Omega-6, which can be beneficial to your health in many of the same ways that monounsaturated fat can be. It lowers cholesterol, reduces blood pressure, and reduces triglycerides. However, it is important to note that excess Omega-6s or too high a ratio of Omega-6s to Omega-3s in the diet can be very inflammatory to our body and negate the positive effects that they can have in small amounts. It is estimated that the average American consumes 10-20x more Omega-6s than Omega-3s, while it is thought that the ideal ratio is somewhere from 2-4x Omega-6s to Omega-3s at the very most.
What does this mean? While Omega-6s are a healthy fat in small amounts we shouldn't necessarily go out of our way to consume more of them and should limit concentrated sources such as vegetable oils. They are very abundant in plant based foods as well as some animal foods, and it is easy to get too much in our diets.
Foods that contain Omega-6 include…
- Vegetable Oils (Safflower Oil, Sesame Oil, Sunflower Oil, Corn Oil, etc)
- Canola Oil
- Seeds (Sunflower Seeds, Sesame Seeds, etc.)
- Farmed Fish Like Tilapia
Saturated Fat: There is a lot of debate over whether saturated fat should be labeled as a healthy fat or unhealthy fat. This type of fat can be found in animal based foods as well as some plant foods and can raise your bad cholesterol (LDL), which is why some would consider it unhealthy. On the other hand, it also raises your good cholesterol (HDL) and is why, along with other benefits, that it is considered a healthy fat. It was once thought that higher LDL automatically meant a greater risk of heart disease, but this did not take into account the rise in HDL, which reduces your risk of heart disease. Currently, there is no direct evidence that saturated fat is to blame for heart disease and there is mounting evidence that the real culprits are trans fats and sugars.
Saturated fats have many health benefits including boosting your immune system, supporting hormone production, providing energy to your brain and heart, and helping you lose weight. They are also rich in vitamins A, E, and K2. There are 3 different types of saturated fats: short chain fatty acids, medium chain fatty acids, and long chain fatty acids. Short chain fatty acids (butter or ghee) and medium chain fatty acids (coconut) are considered the healthiest while long chain fatty acids (meat, palm oil) are considered less healthy. Saturated fats are the best to cook with because they are much more heat stable than unsaturated fats, making them suitable for high heat cooking.
When consuming saturated fats from meat, try balancing your intake and sourcing your foods wisely. For example, beef contains saturated fat but the fats found in cows that are fed grass are very different from the fats found in cows that are fed grains, soy, and corn. Grass-fed beef is lower in total fat, and contains higher amounts of healthy Omega-3s and of CLA, a form of Omega-6, along with the saturated fats. This makes it much more heart healthy in comparison to factory farmed beef and overall the healthier choice when it comes to fat content.
Foods that contain saturated fat include…
- Dark Chicken Meat and Chicken Skin
- Dairy (Butter, Cheese, Sour Cream, etc.)
- Coconut/Coconut Oil or Milk
- Palm Oil
What Are Bad Fats?
Knowing what fats to stay away from is just as important as knowing the ones you should be consuming. It is recommended that you cut out or significantly limit your consumption of unhealthy fat. Regular consumption of bad fats, especially in abundance, can have adverse health effects.
What are the bad fats that you should be aware of?
Trans Fats: These are the fats found in foods you probably already recognize as being unhealthy. This is also the worst kind of fat out there. Not only can trans fats raise your bad cholesterol (LDL) while simultaneously lowering your good cholesterol (HDL), but it also increases your risk of heart disease. And, it is associated with a greater chance of developing type 2 diabetes. Trans fats block essential nutrients from being able to enter your cells, simultaneously creating an imbalance of nutrient levels and keeping your cells from functioning properly. Trans fats are used in food because of the texture and taste. It is mostly found in fast food joints and restaurants because it can be used over and over again, saving the company money. Foods that you will find using trans fats are…
- Fried Food
- Frozen Foods
- Baked Goods (Cookies, Cakes, Donuts, etc.)
- Processed Foods
- Hydrogenated or Partially Hydrogenated Oils
Why Do We Need Healthy Fats?
There are many benefits to eating healthy fats that you do not want to be missing out on. Unlike trans fats, monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, and some saturated fats should be included in your diet every day to receive the following benefits:
Boost Your Metabolism – Your body uses metabolism to get rid of unwanted fat in the body, and healthy fats can actually boost your metabolism. This will, in turn, help you burn more fat. This is why the old myth that “fats makes you fat” is not true! Unfortunately it has led to many people steering away from fat when trying to maintain a healthy weight instead of using it to their advantage and helping their metabolism out.
Controls Hunger – Consuming healthy fats, such as those found in fish, nuts, seeds, and coconut oil can help you feel fuller, longer and stabilize your blood sugar to help control cravings. This can lead to an overall consumption of fewer calories throughout the day. In contrast, unhealthy trans fat may make you feel satisfied immediately after eating, but they do not help you control your hunger long term and lead to more cravings.
Delivers Specific Vitamins – Healthy fats help to transport vitamins A, D, E, and K throughout your body. These are known as fat-soluble vitamins, which means that you cannot absorb them without fat. When you digest these vitamins with fat it makes it easier for your body to dissolve them so they can enter into your bloodstream.
Heart Health – Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats help protect your heart by lowering your cholesterol, improving your blood pressure, and stabilizing heart rhythms so you can keep your heart going strong! Saturated fats are a key energy source for our heart muscle.
How To Get Healthy Fats In Your Diet
Getting healthy fats into your diet is not very difficult if you are eating whole foods. The trouble occurs when you start consuming processed or fried foods which are going to contain less healthy fats and more unhealthy fats like trans fats. Trans fat does not exist in whole foods. Trans fat is used in processed food to cut down on cost and make the food taste better so you crave more. An excellent example of this is anything deep fried. Yes, you can fry up almost anything to make it taste good (fried twinkie, anyone?), but you know it will not be healthy for you and that is because of the over abundance of trans fats. These fats may taste good, but they can be pretty damaging your health.
So, does this mean you can never eat out or have another doughnut again?
Of course not, but be aware of what you are eating and how much. When you go out to eat always check to see what oils they use to cook with, and, of course, don't order anything fried on a regular basis. Stick to whole foods and always make your own food when you can, this way you know exactly what you are putting into your body. Making your own meals and desserts allows you to create healthier alternatives to your favorite dishes by using healthier ingredients.
This homemade approach is the one I used when creating Claire’s Goodness, when I started making my own almond butter that is full of healthy ingredients and healthy fats.
Unlike many popular peanut butter and almond butter brands, Claire’s Goodness does not use hydrogenated vegetable oil, a trans fat which can have damaging effects on your health, or palm oil, a less healthy long chain saturated fatty acid. My almond butter has no added oils whatsoever because it is naturally full of healthy fats from organic almonds. Plus, these healthy fats are more readily absorbed by your body due to the sprouting process.
Use Almonds as a Source of Healthy Fats
Almonds are a great source of healthy fats because they are full of heart healthy monounsaturated fats. They also help you boost your metabolism and control hunger, allowing you to maintain a healthy weight, while providing you with essential vitamins and minerals.
Consuming more almonds is the perfect way to get healthy fats into your diet, especially when using a high-quality sprouted almond butter like Claire’s Goodness. With almond butter you can consume it on its own, add it to your morning oatmeal, toss some in a smoothie, or create tasty treats with it that are both healthy and decadent.
All the delicious recipes that I have created for you are a great source of healthy fats! View recipes here! They always include Claire's Goodness sprouted almond butter as a base as well as other good fats such as coconut oil and other nuts and seeds.
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