Fat might be the most over-hyped macronutrient of all time.
In the past decades, fat has become the Downey Jr. of the dieting world. Once an outlaw, now it’s a pop culture sweetheart. (Bacon T-shirt anyone?).
What are the good types of fat? When the talking heads are constantly changing their minds, what do you believe?
Here’s the real story about what went wrong and what to believe now.
The Misinformation Era
As new research continues to expand our understanding of fats, we’re slowly cleaning house of the rampant misinformation of the 1980s.
The no-fat media crusade gave birth to the Scarsdale Diet, the Cabbage Soup Diet, Herbalife and (not unfortunately) Richard Simmons. (Party off the Pounds rests eternal.) Just the word association made it hard to shake:
Fat makes you fat, right? Nope.
Food companies replaced the fats in “no-fat” foods with carbs and sugars, and America got hooked.
Now we know the complicated relationship between lipids, cholesterol, brain function, and energy storage make fat both essential and beneficial to our health. The key is knowing which fats are good for you, and how much. Dr. Aseem Malhotra has been a crusader in the fight against no-fat misinformation.
Check out his CNN debate below:
What We Know Now
There are four types of fat: monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, saturated, and trans.
- The unsaturated fats work to lower LDL (bad) cholesterol in the bloodstream. Monounsaturated fat sources are rich in the powerful antioxidant vitamin E, and most polyunsaturated fat sources contain heart-healthy omega-3s.
- Saturated fat does not raise bad cholesterol like we once believed. It plays an essential role in detoxing the liver, building strong bones, boosting sexual function, and fighting off viruses.
- Trans fats are just gross: They’re directly linked to increases of heart disease and heart attacks, and actually work against you to lower HDL (good) cholesterol.
Where to Find Good Fat
So how do we incorporate the good fats into our daily routine? Pounding Big Macs is not the answer. Quality is paramount. Here are the best sources of high-fat, high-quality sources:
- Incorporate monounsaturated fat through minimally-processed extra virgin olive oil and avocado.
- Find polyunsaturated fat in fish such as salmon, mackerel, herring, and trout, or walnuts and sunflower seeds.
- Great sources of saturated fat include high-quality, grass-fed meats, hormone-free dairy, grass-fed butter, and coconut oil.
- Say no to the slime: eliminate industrially-produced trans fat. Look carefully at labels for hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils (most often in shortenings, hard margarines, and commercial baked goods).
Remember: Fats Are Good, But Still Caloric
Yes, fats are an essential macronutrient in your diet. But be aware that they are higher in calories. One gram of fat has twice the calories of one gram of carbs or protein.