My last post talked about why fat doesn’t make you fat. (Sugar does!) Just to recap why we need fat, our bodies are made to run off of long-burning healthy dietary fats. Fat plays a ton of role in our bodies, including serving as an energy source, making up the membrane wall of every healthy cell, being necessary for the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K), serving as the building blocks for our sex hormones, promoting the healing process, making us feel satisfied and full, and making our food taste good.
So, what is fat?
Fats, or lipids, are found in most foods. (Even kale has fat in it!) Fats are classified by the length of the molecule (short, medium, or long chain), and their bond saturation with hydrogen (saturated, unsaturated). Within the family of unsaturated fats, we find the healthy Omega 3 and Omega 6 fats. There are even two fatty acids (the building blocks of fats) that are considered “essential”, which means they are necessary to sustain life, but our bodies cannot make them and so they must be ingested.
That’s a lot of chemistry!
Here’s what you need to know. Incorporate good sources of fat into your diet! Choose a variety every day, as each source of fat is comprised of different types of molecules and different beneficial fatty acids. Good choices include:
- Nuts and seeds
- Raw, cold-pressed oils from nuts and seeds (Note: These oils are in dark containers and refrigerated. Avoid the oils in clear plastic bottles on the grocery store shelf.)
- Cold-pressed, extra virgin olive oil
- Saturated fats from healthy sources, such as organic grass fed beef
- Butter and other raw dairy fats
- Raw, organic coconut oil
Fats to avoid:
- Hydrogenated and partially-hydrogenated fats and oils
- Highly processed vegetable oils (corn, soybean, sunflower, safflower, canola)
- Trans fatty acids (from hydrogenated oils)
- Fried foods
These fats are all dangerous as they cause inflammation at the cellular level. Inflammation is the root cause of many diseases, and heart disease in particular. Although for years we believed that unsaturated oils such as canola were actually good for the heart, we now know they cause inflammation and disease, and are to be avoided.
Here’s the bottom line: You don’t have to limit healthy fat in your diet. Because fat is so satisfying, it’s very hard to eat too much of it. So what does that look like on your plate? About one-third of your plate should be some kind of protein, including animal (meats) and vegetable (beans) sources. And most of the rest should be vegetables of all kinds. Healthy fats, like avocados, coconut oil, and butter can be used liberally. Limit grains and fruits, and always avoid processed, packaged, denatured foods.