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Fat Is Not A Bad Word

Fat is NOT a bad word, but we should understand why we need it and the healthy way to get it.

Dietary fats help our bodies absorb fat-soluble nutrients and help protect our organs, produce energy and keep the body warm. We need to take in a regular amount of fats to stay healthy and vibrant; the goal is not to cut out fat but rather to replace bad fats with good fats.

Not All Fats Are Created Equal

Fat is generally considered an undesirable macronutrient that people avoid when trying to lose weight. While it's true that all fats are more calorie-dense than other macros (fat contains nine calories per gram while protein and carbs have four calories per gram each), you can't assume they are all the sam

Dietary fat helps you absorb essential vitamins and minerals, including vitamins A, D, E and K. It's also necessary for maintaining healthy hair, skin and nails and plays a role in blood clotting, muscle movement and managing inflammation, according to Harvard Health Publishing.  Fat is essential for brain health also.  Omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential fats, help maintain healthy neural connections and cognitive function, according to an August 2018 article published in Current Neuropharmacology.

Saturated fats

These fats remain solid at room temperature and are found in animal products (beef fat and butter) and tropical oils (coconut oil and palm oil). 

 

Unsaturated fats

These come from plant sources, including nuts, seeds and olives. These are your sources of MUFAs and PUFAs (essential fatty acids), which are linked to heart health.

Trans fats

These come from partially hydrogenated oils (manufactured fats) and are commonly found in highly processed foods, including cakes, cookies, crackers, icing and margarine. Trans fats pose the most significant risk to your health, and partially hydrogenated oils are no longer generally recognized as safe. Some animal products also contain naturally occurring trans fats, but these types aren't thought to be as detrimental as manufactured trans fats.

So What's the Scoop on Low-Fat and Fat-Free 

Because fat provides more calories per gram than other macronutrients, lower-fat diets are often the first ones looked at for reducing weight, but low-fat do not necessarily equate to healthier. Low-fat and fat-free foods are usually promoted as healthy-eating options, and many people fall the marketing message.

There are three key ingredients to making food taste good: sugar, fat and salt. Often when one is reduced or removed, another is increased to keep the flavour profile or additives are incorporated to improve the taste. A fat-free strawberry yogurt can contain as much sugar as a candy bar.

Too Much of A Good Thing

When looking at the good fats, don't forgo portion control! It is still a calorie-dense food. A little goes a long way when it comes to fat intake. At a certain point, you aren't adding a lot of nutritional value to your day, but you are still adding many calories, which can lead to weight gain. Nuts and avocadoes are perfect examples of healthy fat sources, but you'll want to be careful how much you take in since they are packed with calories. 

And when we eat too many fats and focus on one food group, we miss out on the benefits of a balanced diet. Include a bit of healthy fat like olive oil while limiting butter and avoiding trans fat. If you're eating too many fats — regardless of whether they're healthy — you may be missing out on heart-healthy fruits and vegetables as well as fibre-rich whole grains.

Replacing saturated fats with unsaturated fats, including monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats (MUFAs and PUFAs), and increasing our intake of fibre-rich whole grains, can benefit our health. A healthy plate should consist of half the plate vegetables (and fruit), with a quarter dedicated to each healthy protein and whole grains.


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