For far too long we have been bombarded with zero-fat and low-fat labels. And truthfully, they pull us in, even knowing now that not all fats are bad. So why is it that we still opt for the low-fat yogurt and egg-whites while putting those chips or crackers in the cart? It’s because we know chips aren’t healthy but have been conditioned to believe the low-fat yogurt is. And while the low-fat yogurt may contain some added benefits such as probiotics, your body really is missing out on the fat. Eating the right kind of fats will not only do wonders for your waistline, it can improve your skin, health and overall well-being. Here is what you need to know:
Overview of Fats
While our bodies can synthesize most fats, they cannot synthesize the essential fatty acids (ESAs) known as linoleic acid and alpha-linolenic acid and so they must be derived from our food. These basic fats are used to build specialized fats called omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids which are important for the normal functioning of all tissues in the body.
Beyond these fats there are also monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats, also known as the good fats because they reduce the risk of clogged arteries, are good for your heart and lower cholesterol. Trans fats and saturated fats should be avoided as much as possible because they heighten your risk for disease and elevate cholesterol.
Sources of Good Fats
The long names, abbreviations and various types of fat can get confusing; as a rule of thumb good fats include:
- Whole Eggs
- Fatty Fish (especially salmon and mackerel)
- Nuts (particularly walnuts)
- Butter from Grass Fed Cows
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Coconuts and Coconut Oil
- Full Fat Yogurt
Provide Energy and Are Satiating
While each gram of fat contains 9 calories compared to the 4 calories per gram found in carbohydrates and protein, these aren’t empty calories. This is important because it means you will eat less overall while your body builds a supply of stored-up energy to be released as needed throughout the day. In fact, one pound of stored fat provides approximately 3,600 calories of energy.
Help the Body Process Vitamins
Vitamins are important for our overall health and many of us just don’t get enough. But even if you are, is your body really processing them? Vitamins A, D, E and K are fat-soluble and good fats help our bodies absorb them.
Healthier Looking Skin
Have dry, flaky skin that is prone to whiteheads and blackheads? This is one of the most obvious signs of a fatty acid deficiency. Essential fatty acids, specifically omega-3s and omega-6s, not only build healthy cell membranes but also produce a natural oil barrier to our skin which keeps it hydrated as well as plumps it up to give a younger-looking appearance. Furthermore, research suggests that EFAs can reduce sun sensitivity, decrease inflammation associated with acne, and can help lessen the impact of psoriasis.
For the Kids
It is essential that children get enough healthy fats in their diet. Not only do these fats build a barrier to protect vital organs in case of injury but they are crucial to proper brain and hormone development. With 60 per cent of the brain and the nerves that run every system in the body being made-up of fat, it’s no wonder that good fats play such an important role in a child’s development. For proper brain development, omega-3 fats that can be found in ground flax seeds and flax seed oil, cold water fish (primarily salmon and tuna), canola oil, soybeans, walnuts, wheat germ, pumpkin seeds, and eggs are especially important.
The Bottom Line
When it comes to your waistline as well as your overall health, not all calories are created equal; and eating fat will not make you fat. Consuming too many of any type of calorie adds pounds to the body, and low-fat often equals higher amounts of sugar, refined carbohydrates, and calories. As always, balance is key but don’t shy away from those avocados, egg yolks, fish and vegetable oils. Your heart, health, and skin will thank you for it.