What is fat?:
Fat is an essential macronutrient that has many functions in our bodies. Fat is used as a source of energy during light activity and when at rest and our bodies store fat as energy for future use. Fat also helps us absorb fat-soluble vitamins such as, Vitamins A, D, E and K. Fat also keeps us warm especially during the snowpocolypse! Fats even help keep our hair shiny! We need fat, but it depends on what kind of fats we are eating.
What are the types?:
Fats come in many different shapes and sizes, colors and textures. Some are good for us and some are horrible for us. Others the verdict isn’t quite out on them yet. The good fats may have positive effects on our health and the bad fats may have negative effects on our health. What you need to know is this: Mono and poly-unsaturated fats are the good guys on your labels, the better for you fat choices. These are our omega-9 and omega-3 & 6’s respectively. These fats are liquid at room temperature and are found naturally occurring in many foods.
Now, this is not to say that you need to go out and free for all on fats. Eating too many fats each day can lead to weight gain without a doubt, because of how calorically dense they are. But, when choosing fats it is important to choose the good ones. Studies are showing the intake of good fats is related to improving cholesterol levels, blood pressure and reducing the risk of diabetes. Fat in meals also really helps to keep us full.
The bad boys of fats are the trans fats and the saturated fats. Saturated fats are typically solid at room temperature and are found naturally in meat products. Trans fats are mostly processed fats due to partial hydrogenation, which actually is used to turn liquid into solid. In November of 2013 the FDA made a preliminary determination that partially hydrogenated oils are not, “generally recognized as safe” for use in foods. A final decision on this statement has not been made yet. These bad fat choices are linked to decreasing our good cholesterol and increasing our bad cholesterol and should really be limited in our diet.
Where can you find them?:
You can find your good (better for you) fats in items such as:
- Canola oil
- Sunflower Oil
- Peanut oil
- Soy bean oil
- Omega-3 eggs
- Olive Oil
- Corn Oil
- Fatty fish: such as salmon, mackerel, herring and trout
- Nuts and Seeds (walnuts, pistachios, sunflower seeds, almonds, cashews, hazelnuts, pecans, peanuts)
Your bad fats are found in:
- Baked goods like pastries, donuts, pie crusts and biscuits
- Fried foods
- Stick margarines
- Fatty meats
- Poultry with skin
- Whole fat dairy products
- Palm oil, palm kernel oil
Now the elephant in the room is clearly coconut oil, as it has not been discussed yet.
Science is still not clear cut on the benefits of, or harm in coconut oil and it’s saturated yet primarily medium chain fat structure (60% Medium chain – which the body uses quicker and doesn’t build up in our blood stream and 40% long chain - which can have negative effects and lead to heart concerns). Saturated fats in general are ones to be used sparingly. If you use coconut oil, I suggest replacing it in recipes for other fats, not simply adding it to recipes in addition to other fats or to recipes that don’t call for fats to begin with. What do I do with my bottle of coconut oil at home? Well, actually, as I am typing right now I have it in my hair. It is a great mask for hair and makes skin soft and smooth.
What is my favorite ways to use a healthier fat?
Substitute some avocado and plain Greek yogurt for mayo in your favorite sandwich recipes. Try this with homemade chicken salad and tuna fish salad and for an extra special dose of good fats try making a “salmon salad” sandwich with your avocado and Greek yogurt mixture as your mayo! Yum!!
Hope you are feeling more confident in your fat knowledge after this lesson! Remember moderation is key always and of course that rule applies even with our good fats.
For even more awesome info on good fats and for all your fat questions – please check out goodfats101.com.
For food inspiration don’t forget to check out my #happyslimhealthy hash tag on Insta-gram!
- Jenna A. Stock, RD