The Fat-Free Myth: Why You NEED Fats to Be Healthy
Are you afraid of eating fats? It’s not unusual to have the misconception that fat is bad for you.
The whole fat-free craze that started in the 1980s made lipids the enemy. As more people shunned fats, food companies created more low- and no-fat products to meet the demand. The trouble is that many foods that are reduced fat or non-fat have added sugar to give them flavor.
All that extra sugar is what raises insulin levels, making your body a fat-storing machine. What you want to be is a fat-burning machine.
How fats build healthy cells
Fats are a vital part of the membrane that surrounds each cell of the body. Without a healthy cell membrane, the rest of the cell can’t function.
Fat is also essential for your entire nervous system. You need fat to grow healthy brain cells and to keep the lines of communication between the cells open and functioning well.
Without healthy fat, your body can’t absorb certain nutrients. For example, your salad will be much healthier with a little olive oil because your digestive system will be able to absorb the beta-carotene from the carrots and the lycopene from the tomatoes. Without it, many of those valuable nutrients, called carotenoids, will pass through your system without being absorbed. Carotenoids are essential because they are the cancer-fighting antioxidants that keep your whole system healthy.
When you are nutrient-deficient, your body craves more food. Instead of eating more, you can just eat the nutrients your body needs, and you’ll naturally eat less food. Your body will naturally start to release pounds as it is fed what it needs to function correctly.
Where to get healthy fats
Coconut oil: A medium-chain fatty acid is actually one of the healthiest fats available—the lauric acid in it is has anti-microbial properties and can help boost the immune system. Because this fat doesn’t break down as easily when heated, you can use it for high-heat cooking.
Extra virgin olive oil: This antioxidant-rich oil has been linked to a reduced risk of cancer, heart disease, and stroke. This delicate oil is healthier when used uncooked in your salad dressing or added into a dish after it’s cooked.
Avocado: Some say that avocado oil might be as healthy as olive oil. The fat composition can help reverse the damage of free radicals, which are damaged cells that contribute to chronic diseases. Use avocado oil in salad dressings, or slice up fresh avocado and add to salads, soups, or other dishes.
Nuts and seeds: Almonds, walnuts, cashews, filberts, hazelnuts, chia, sunflower, and pumpkin seeds are just a few great sources of healthy fats in the nuts and seeds category. Try them sprinkled in salads, sautéed with greens, or raw as a snack. They’ll fill you up and give you a healthy dose of heart-healthy fat.
Fish: Healthy oily fish like sardines, mackerel, smelt, and anchovies are a great source of healthy omega-3 fats. Smaller fish tend to be healthier sources of these fats because they are less likely to have mercury in them. Bigger fish tend to accumulate more pollutants in their systems, which we end up eating. Most people go for salmon, but it is essential to get wild, and not farm-raised, salmon to get the right fat profile.
Supplements: If you don’t eat enough of these foods on a regular basis, or if you tend to eat at restaurants more than you cook at home, a high-quality omega 3 supplement can help fill in the gap. There are many fish oil supplements available, but it’s important to get one that is purified so that you’re eliminating pollutants.
Which fats should you avoid?
What’s not good are highly processed commercial oils and trans fats—anything that’s partially hydrogenated, refined oils (yes, that includes vegetable oils, soybean oil, corn oil, cottonseed oil, safflower oil, and many canola oils).
Eating these highly processed oils throws off the balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in your body. We need both, but in more equal amounts. When they are out of balance, our bodies go into a state of inflammation. And that’s when our bodies start getting sick and breaking down.
Where do you usually get your healthy fats?