Unhealthy and myth-based diets of the past have given fat a bad name that has had a negative lasting impact on the weight loss. Fat should not be considered a deep, dark enemy. It is not a dieting “F-word”! In fact, you need a good amount of the right types of fat in order to make sure that you can effectively lose weight, maintain a healthy immune system, improve your mood, and look great (with healthy hair, skin, and nails).
The Problem with Diets That Eliminate All Fat, including Healthy Fats
So here’s the scoop: there is a destructive dieting myth that is misleading all too many dieters, suggesting that if you want to lose fat, you shouldn’t eat fat. As it turns out, though, if you try to achieve a non-fat diet and always pick fat-free alternatives, you could be working against your own efforts. Fat, as it turns out, can actually be an important friend when you are trying to lose or maintain weight.
Your body requires healthy fats to achieve its best function levels:
- They are vital for the absorption of vitamin A (an antioxidant), vitamin D, vitamin E, and other nutrients.
- They are also a critical part of the health of your nervous system, including your brain, spinal cord, and nerves.
An Explanation of Healthy Fats vs. Unhealthy Fats
What fats are considered unhealthy?
First off, saturated fats are the type that you should work to avoid from now on. They come with the increased risk of heart disease and obesity, and make it very difficult to lose weight, while also increasing your bad cholesterol levels.
These unhealthy fats can be found in:
- Meat and poultry
- Dairy products like cream and butter, as a couple of examples
- Palm and coconut oils
What about trans fats? According to the American Heart Association, these should be avoided as best as possible because they can reduce your good cholesterol level, while increasing your bad cholesterol level. Plus, they can contribute to a higher risk of heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes. Yikes!
What are some of the foods that contain trans fat? Well, there are trans fats that are naturally occurring, and you would get these from animal products like meat and dairy. In addition to that, however, there are artificial trans fats, which are also known as trans fatty acids. These are made through a process that takes vegetable oil and adds hydrogen to it. This process makes the oil more solid, and it creates what’s known as “partially hydrogenated oil.” If you come across a food that lists this ingredient on the label, do not buy it!
The bottom line is simple: avoid unhealthy saturated fat and trans fat, and pack your diet with foods that are high in beneficial fats, such as the following:
The key is to choose the right, healthy fats. Focus on eating monounsaturated fats. They will not only help with weight loss and overall health, but studies have also shown that they have considerable benefits in lowering the risk of heart disease and stroke. They are also known to help to lower bad cholesterol levels while increasing good cholesterol levels, lowering your risk of built up plaque in your arteries. And, they can help with the maintenance of the health of your cells. Plus, research even suggests that good fats help to prevent fat from being stored in your belly area!
Some of the foods that are high in monounsaturated fats include:
- Sesame oil
- Sunflower oil
- Peanut butter
- Peanut oil
In addition to monounsaturated fat, polyunsaturated fat is also considered one of the healthy fats that you should aim to get from your daily diet in order to maintain wellness. That’s because this type of fat can help reduce your bad cholesterol. Also, because polyunsaturated fats include omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids, your cells, heart, and brain can use this type of fat to maintain proper function.
Some of the foods that are high in polyunsaturated fats include:
- Sunflower seeds
- Soybean oil
- Flax oil
- Safflower oil
- Corn oil
The Right Amount of Healthy Fat, and Where to Get It
You should also pay attention to the amount of fat you’re eating. After all, while there is a great deal of benefit to healthy fats, they still contain a large number of calories. Therefore, try to make up about 25 to 30 percent of your daily caloric intake with fats.
So where do you find these elusive healthy fats? In very flavorful foods that are affordable and easy to find. They include:
- Olive oil and olives
- Canola oil
- Peanut butter
- Sesame seeds
You’ll also find walnuts, flaxseeds, mackerel, salmon, and herring to be high in the types of fats your body loves. Those foods also contain omega-3s, which come with another whole range of health benefits.
It’s All About Balance!
When it comes to consuming a healthy diet, it is all about balance. Focus on getting all of the macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates, and fats) that your body needs to thrive. And, when it comes to fat, in particular, don’t be so afraid of it anymore. Instead, just use your new knowledge about healthy fats versus unhealthy fats to make wiser choices when it comes to what you eat on a daily basis.