The human body needs fat to survive. It is involved in many reactions in the body, helps to keep us warm and provides invaluable vitamins and nutrients. We could not function properly without a certain amount of it everyday, so then why the bad reputation?
Perhaps it because it provides more calories per gram than carbs or protein, so its easy to eat too much if we aren’t aware of how much we need. The average adult needs about 65g, or 12 tsp.of fat per day. This includes “hidden” fat as well as anything we may add to our foods. Hidden fat is fat that we cannot easily see in foods. For example, muffins, cookie and Mr. No oodles do not have marbling or fat we can trim off, but they are (usually) high in fat.
I believe that the bad reputation is also due to the fact that some fats are known to put us at risk for heart attacks, stokes, high cholesterol, cancer, etc… when eaten in large quantities. Unfortunately, the good fats are over looked when some people try to avoid fat all together, and this too can put you at risk for health problems.
So, what is the good fat? I think most of us are aware that the bad stuff is the saturated and trans fats (that’s why we can read how much of them are in our foods that contain Nutrition Facts labels). The good fats are those called monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Unfortunately, not all food labels indicate how much of the good stuff can be found in their products BUT by knowing what foods are high in good fats, you can replace the bad with the good (again- this is better than cutting down you fat intake to zero!)
Monounsaturated fat is the fat we find in olive oil and canola oil which is why they are the top 2 oils to use. Its the fat that is the most predominant in the Mediterranean diet and can actually protect your heart against disease, stroke, high cholesterol, etc….. Other food sources of monounsaturated fats are avocados, almonds, pistachios, peanuts and olives.
By replacing your vegetable oil or butter with canola oil when frying or making your own salad dressing with olive oil (rather than buying prepared dressing) you can increase your intake of good fats without increasing your overall intake of fat.
Polyunsaturated fat is the family in which we find the ever-popular Omega 3 fat. This fat is also “cardio-protective” meaning it protects our heart from disease. The best food sources are fatty fish like salmon, trout, mackerel, sardines and tuna as well as Omega-3 Pro eggs. Flax seeds, walnuts and soy & canola oil also contain omega 3s. However, the type of Omega 3s they contain are less efficient at protecting our bodies.
If you are looking to protect your body from the bad fats, look to the food labels to help guide you. If the label tells you that the food item has less than 10% of your daily value of bad fats (both saturated and trans together), it is considered low in bad fats. This is a better way to compare products than by just comparing their total fat content.