What are the best fats?
We all love fatty foods. The combo of fat and sugar (think ice cream or cake) or fat and salt (french fries, potato chips) is especially addicting. Our bodies are wired to like the taste of fat - possibly because energy dense foods were necessary for survival when there was a risk of famine at points in winter.
Of course, now we have very little risk of famine! Our cupboards, pantry and refrigerator are well stocked to ensure we never have to go hungry.
Yet some fat is important. Now that we've made it through the fad-fearing 90's, it is widely recognized that our health is improved with moderate amounts of healthy fat. Proponents of a keto way of eating even go as far as eating over 50%-60% of their nutrients from dietary fat.
So what kind is best?
It's always important to start with plants. Plant based fats are some of the healthiest fat sources available to us and include things like avocado, nuts, seeds, flaxseed, chia, olives, olive oil and coconut oil. Seafood also falls in this category.
These foods are monosatured and polyunsaturated fats, which help to lower bad cholesterol and raise good cholesterol.
Wild salmon, walnuts, flax, and chia are also good sources of Omega 3 fatty acids, which are well known for their anti-inflammatory properties. They are linked to a longer, healthier life and less risk of disease.
Key --> Increase your intake of Omega 3 fatty acids or find a high quality supplement.
There is mixed research on fats from animals and saturated fats, which are solid at room temperature. Generally moderate amounts of fat from natural (grass fed, free range) meat, butter and dairy can be okay and contain some key nutrients like B vitamins.
High consumption of red meat and butter has been linked to a risk in heart disease, but butter is always a better choice than man made fats like margarine.
Key --> Incorporate moderate amounts of fatty meats and butter but aim to get most of your fat from plant sources.
The worst fats are factory made fats, like margarine. These are known as trans fats, which raise bad cholesterol and can create plague build up in the arteries. They are found in many processed foods, candy, chips and some peanut butters.
Margarine and similar man made fats are made by adding hydrogen to stabilize a fat at room temperature as solid.
These products are also very high in Omega 6 fatty acids which is why the typical Americans balance of Omega 6 to Omega 3 is very unhealthy at 25:1 instead of the recommended 3:1.
Key --> Avoid food products that contain hydrogenated oils or partially hydrogenated oils on the ingredient list.
This varies on the individual. For someone who is very carbohydrate sensitive or goes keto for health reasons, fat can make up a large part of their dietary intake.
For the average person, fat should be between 20-30% of dietary intake. A typically plate should be 1/2 full of non starchy veggies, contain 1/4 protein and 1/4 starch from a vegetable or whole grain. An additional thumb sized amount of fat or two per meal (olive oil, nuts/seeds, avocado) is sufficient.
Do you think about where your fat is coming from in a typical day?
What sources of Omega 3 fatty acids do you consume?