Fat is an essential macronutrient and should be treated with respect. Beginning in the 1970’s we got the message that fat was bad and everyone jumped on the low-fat bandwagon.
To compound the confusion, replacing fat with processed carbohydrates reaped an unintended result. We still got heart disease because the refined sugar in these products also contributed to our elevated LDL levels and heart disease.
Why? Because eating these nutrient-void “food products” caused us to overeat, leading to obesity and diabetes, sometimes called “diabesity” and this is one of the factors in developing heart disease.
Now, after years of misleading information, we are told to embrace fat as a nutrient essential to our overall health. What?
The bad rap came from inaccurate labeling all fat unhealthy, when the real culprit is saturated fat, which increases our LDL (bad) cholesterol levels in our blood, increasing our risk of heart disease. This saturated fat is found in high-fat cuts of meat, and chicken with the skin on. It is also found in trans fat and hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils like margarine, or in fried food and donuts.
Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are “healthy fats” such as olive oil, flaxseed, and Omega-3 fatty acids found in salmon.
So, you see, dietary fat is an essential nutrient which provides us energy and helps us absorb certain vitamins from our foods. For example, think peanut butter (or other nut butters) and jelly, watermelon and feta or whole milk yogurt with berries. Food combinations like these increase the nutrient absorption and effectiveness of the antioxidants in our food.
It’s also important for energy, blood clotting, building our cells, and muscle movement. Incorporating healthy fats in our diets helps reduce heart disease, reduces the risk of arthritis and is an anti-inflammatory. It helps stabilize our blood sugar and reduce the risk of adult onset diabetes.
Getting enough healthy fat in our diet helps regulate our hormones, leaves us feeling satiated after a meal and adequate fat intake is important for our brain health.
Now most of us are getting enough fat in our diets. But what happens when you aren’t? First of all, you are always feeling hungry, also known as the Snackwell Syndrome. This is where you eat a whole box of “fat-free” cookies because you don’t feel full. Enough fat in your meal enhances your food and makes you feel satiety.
Another telltale sign is that your skin feels dry, flaky or itchy. If you always feel cold it could also be an indication of not getting enough of this vital macronutrient. A lack of concentration and even having your menstrual cycle stop completely may mean you are not getting enough fat and/or have a low body fat percentage. Not healthy.
Simply put, we need a balanced diet that includes a dose of healthy fat to help us optimally process our food for energy, along with all the other body functions it contributes to, of which there are many. The World Health Organization recommends we keep our intake under 30% of our overall daily calories.
Don’t be afraid of fat – just make the right choices.