Much confusion about whether or not fat should be included in our diets has been around for too long. There is much evidence that healthy fats are beneficial to or over-all health in many ways such as improved brain and liver function.
When it comes to incorporating fats into our diet, there is a lot you must consider. For instance, knowing the difference between healthy fats and unhealthy fats. How do you know the difference and what makes them healthy or unhealthy? Another is how many different kinds of fats are there and what do they do to/for the body?
Why was fat ever considered bad?
Looking back in history of nutrition, fat had once been a staple to a healthy diet as it was an excellent source of energy and being higher in calories than any other nutrient, it kept you full for longer.
But overtime something changed. There were more studies being conducted and scientists started noticing the effect of different kinds of fats. One study in the 1930s had showed some animals were prone to atherosclerosis, a condition that leads to heart disease because of clogged arteries, and linked this to a diet high in cholesterol.
In the 1940's and 50's the link between heart disease and fat and cholesterol had increased even more when the numbers of heart disease decreased throughout many countries. This was thought to be because during WWII, the foods that were restricted during wartime rationing where high in both fat and cholesterol.
Eventually a hypothesis developed by scientists within the Seven Countries Study that was launched mainly by American physiologist Ancel Keys. This hypothesis stated that saturated fats increased blood cholesterol, leading to heart disease and atherosclerosis.
There were other studies that were ignored, and Keys and the other scientists were misquoted by nutritionists, and journalists ignoring the fact that they did acknowledge that not all fats where indeed bad and that unsaturated fats could lower the risk of heart disease. This lead to many claiming that all saturated fat was bad, and placing most if not all fat under the same category to be avoided. This lead to the fad low-fat that was so popular before.
Not All Fat is Created Equal
Making the claim that all fat is bad or all saturated fat is bad is an exaggerated statement. Some saturated fats are actually beneficial in some aspects. Some of the same types of saturated fats also have different effects. For example one study showed that palmitate from lard could cause heart disease while on the other hand the palmitate from tallow did not.
Looking at avocados, they have the same amount of saturated fat to that of three slices of bacon, yet avocados lower bad cholesterol while bacon increases it. The quality of the food is what is important rather than honing down on just whether or not there is saturated fat or not.
When we say unhealthy here, we are talking about what are called trans fats. these fats are industrially made by hydrogenating ("the process of saturating some double bonds and converting others to trans configuration in order to provide a firm firmness and plasticity to shortenings, thereby, enabling the production of solid and semi-solid fats.") vegetable oil, or in other words chemically configuring it with hydrogen gas which in turn changes the form of the fat from liquid unsaturated fat to solid saturated fat. Sounds wonderful, no?
The following are some of the most common trans fats out there:
- Commercial baked goods, such as cakes, cookies and pies.
- Microwave popcorn.
- Frozen pizza.
- Refrigerated dough, such as biscuits and rolls.
- Fried foods, including french fries, doughnuts and fried chicken.
- Nondairy coffee creamer.
- Stick margarine.
Trans fats are considered a foreign substance to our bodies as it does not recognize it, in turn it leads to heart disease. It is very important to do your research to make sure that the oils you are using are indeed healthy. There is even some debate of whether or not canola oil is safe to consume. Do your research!
The healthy fats that have benefits
There are indeed healthy fats out there with health benefits in tow. Some of these healthy fats are:
- Plant-based oils like olive oil and sesame oil
- Nuts, such as peanuts and cashews
- Seeds, such as pumpkin seeds and sesame seeds
- Fish oil
- Sunflower oil
- Nuts, like walnuts and pine nuts
The benefits you get from these fats go from improving skin to having optimal bran function. Make sure you do your research and talk to a trusted doctor or nutritionist!