The Skinny on Dietary Fats

If there is one subject about achieving good health through diet and lifestyle that is shrouded in confusion, it is fat.  Is a good thing or a bad thing? I meet many people who are not sure, and they have good reason to be confused.

Some History

Keeping in mind that nutrition science is still a fairly young field of study, fat came under scrutiny in the 1960s. At that time the sugar industry paid Harvard researchers to publish a review on sugar, fat, and heart disease.  The sugar industry funded the research to cover up warning signs, which emerged in the 1950s that sugar caused heart disease.  Shifting the blame away from sugar, the researchers singled out saturated fat as the cause of heart disease.

After the study the media, public health authorities, and the food industry promoted the low fat, high-carbohydrate diet.  The advice was misleading, but the diet was nonetheless touted as the healthiest diet to prevent heart disease.

Food manufacturers flooded the markets with processed foods containing hydrogenated fats and processed sugar. Then along came trans fats and more sugar to replace saturated fats and epidemic rates of obesity and its related health complications ensued. Since then rates of diabetes, heart disease, and cancer have risen since Americans adopted the low-fat, high carbohydrate diet.

And Now?

Saturated fats are the ones that are solid at room temperature and they are still doubted in some circles to be a good component of a healthy diet. For example, the American Heart Association recently made a statement claiming that dietary fats and cholesterol are unhealthy and should be replaced with processed with vegetable oils and sugars. Coincidentally, (or not!), much of the funding for the American Heart Association comes from corporations that produce and sell high amounts of processed foods.

Fortunately, the cloud of confusion on the subject has risen in recent years, as science continually confirms the benefits of incorporating healthy fats into the diet. Healthy fats help people lose weight, reduce inflammation, boost energy, improve brain health, and extend lifespan.

Sources of Healthy Fats

Fats that heal can be found in many foods. Plant-based fats are in avocados and their oil, nuts and seeds and their butters, coconuts, and olives and their oils. Animal sources include meats, butter, chicken, eggs and some fish.

There are many benefits to be had by incorporating them into your diet. They provide building blocks for cell membranes and hormones. They also function as carriers for important fat-soluble vitamins, such as A, D, E, and K, and aid in the absorption of minerals. They help to steady our metabolism, keep hormone levels even, nourish our skin, hair, and nails, and provide lubrication to keep the body functioning fluidly. Healing fats are essential for a healthy body and lifestyle.

Consider these 5 high-fat foods that are incredibly healthy and nutritious.

1. Avocados. The avocado is different from most other fruits, in that they have a high amount of fat (77% of its calories) and other fruits do not. Its main fat is oleic acid, which also the predominant fatty acid in olive oil, which is also associated with various health benefits

Avocados are among the best sources of potassium in the diet, even containing 40% more potassium than bananas, well known for their potassium content. They are also a great source of fiber and have been shown that people who eat avocados tend to weigh less and have less belly fat than those who don’t.

2. Nuts are incredibly healthy.  They are high in healthy fats and fiber, and a good plant-based source of protein. They are also high in vitamin E and magnesium, which is a mineral that is deficient in many people.

Studies have shown that people who eat nuts tend to be healthier, and have a lower risk of various diseases, including obesity, (now epidemic in this country), heart disease, and type 2 diabetes, which is also on the rise because of poor diets. Some of my favorite nuts are almonds, walnuts, pecans, cashews, and filberts. Others are macadamia nuts, pine nuts, and pistachios.

3. Chia Seeds. These little guys are not generally perceived as a “fatty” food, but an ounce of them actually contains 9 grams of fat.  Almost all of the carbohydrates in chia seeds are fiber, so the majority of calories in them comes from fat. They are about 80% fat, (primarily heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids), which qualifies them as an excellent high-fat plant food. They have valuable fiber and minerals as well.

4. Extra Virgin Olive Oil is an essential component of the Mediterranean diet, which has been shown to have numerous health benefits. It contains vitamins E and K and is packed with powerful antioxidants, some of which are great inflammation fighters.

Olive oil also helps to lower blood pressure, improve cholesterol markers, and have many benefits related to heart disease risk

5. Coconuts and Coconut Oils, my personal favorites! They are the richest source of saturated fat on the planet. Even though about 90% of the fatty acids in them are saturated, populations that consume large amounts of coconut do not have high levels of heart disease and are in excellent health.

The fatty acids are different from most other fats. They consist largely of medium-chain fatty acids. Coconuts and their oils are anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-viral, and provide many health benefits. Among them are aiding digestion, strengthening the immune system, preventing and fighting candida and other infections, balancing blood sugar levels, nourishing the skin and hair, and improving bone health. See more about coconuts and their oils here and here.

Don’t be afraid of these healthy fats in your diet. They all have good track records as proven healing foods.

 

 

 

 

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