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Fats, A Four Letter Word

Fats, the four letter word in our diet For over four decades, dietary fats have been demonized and disparaged. We avoid, them, purchase low fat or fat free foods and even favor synthetic or factory created fats over real food.

Today science is revealing fat is not what is hurting our health. In reality, fat is necessary for many key functions in the body. For example, it provides energy, maintains core temperature, makes hormones, absorbs nutrients, and has a major role in neurological and brain function.

The war on fat is over but the dietary recommendations of the last decades have left many of us confused on which fats to avoid and which to include. Lets break it down:

Trans Fats
Also known as hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils, these fats are categorically and entirely unhealthy and linked to cardiovascular disease, diabetes and even cancer. Found in foods such as baked goods, vegetable shortenings, margarine, snack foods, processed foods, and fried fast foods, there is universal agreement these fats should be avoided at all cost.

Saturated Fats
By definition these fats are “saturated” with hydrogen atoms and are solids are room temperature. Examples include butter, coconut or palm oil, animal fats, and full fat dairy. Saturated fats have been falsely linked to disease and subsequently feared however science is now proving otherwise. They are rich in fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K), can increase good cholesterol, have anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties, and provide satiety and flavor to foods. They are also heat resistant, meaning fats such as butter and coconut oil are preferred for high temperature cooking (i.e. grilling, roasting, and broiling).

Monounsaturated Fats
These fats are historically referenced as “healthy” fats and are credited for decreasing cardiovascular and cancer risk in addition to providing nutrients. Examples of monounsaturated fats include olives or olive oil, vegetable oils, nuts, and avocados. The Mediterranean Diet, rich in olive oil, is associated with reduced risk of early death and weight management. Debate continues though on whether olive oil is oxidized at high temperatures therefore some recommend limiting use to low heat and only using extra virgin olive oil.

Polyunsaturated Fats
Also referred to as “essential” fats meaning unlike monounsaturated and saturated fats, the body requires polyunsaturated fats through diet for biological processes. Polyunsaturated fat can be found in nuts, seeds, fish, algae, leafy greens, vegetable oils and krill. Omega 3, 6 and 9 are all polyunsaturated fats however their roles in the human body are vastly different. Overall focus your diet on the inclusion of omega 3’s (found in fish, algae, leafy greens) as they are anti-inflammatory and heart healthy!

It is important to note that fats are not exclusively saturated, monounsaturated, or polyunsaturated. Foods are labeled based on their most dominant form but often contain a combination of all types of fat.

Here are some cooking fats and oils I recommend clients use to promote optimal health:

Organic Butter or Ghee
Coconut Oil
Avocado Oil
Nut Oils
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Flax Seed Oil (Do not heat)

The information provided is for education only and is not intended for the treatment or prevention of disease, nor should it be used as a replacement for seeking medical treatment.