To say that a big deal has been made about fat is a huge understatement.
Fat has been demonized to the point of making us feel our arteries clogging up when any sort of fatty foods touch our mouths. The annoying thing is, just as one group finishes making a statement about a certain fat, it turns out that it’s actually good for you!
Don’t eat eggs they give you high cholesterol!
Eat eggs they give you good cholesterol!
Saturated fat is bad for you, it makes you fat!
Saturated fat actually helps you lose weight!
It’s seriously such a mess that it leaves your head spinning, so let’s take a look at fats, and try to slim down the information 😉 into some bite-sized pieces.
(Let’s remember we’re no experts! We’re just researching and putting together information that makes the most sense to us.)
The Skinny on Fat
There are three basic kinds of fat that we need to understand in order to make better decisions about what to include in our diet.
- Saturated fats become solid at room temperature, so for a while, even Dr. Oz was saying it meant they would clog your arteries. There is concern that these kinds of fats may promote inflammation. Saturated fats include eggs, lard, butter, coconut oil, basically anything that tastes rich and amazing. These fats are best for cooking. In addition to being yummy, saturated fat helps your liver function better, is good for your bones and your immune system, and improves hormone function.
- Monounsaturated fats are highly regarded as the good, responsible fat brothers – they don’t drink or smoke, and they make their beds every morning, ha. Studies show that they are beneficial for your cholesterol and make your body more responsive to insulin, which is a good thing. Unsaturated fats remain in a liquid state when they are at room temperature. Some examples are olive and sesame oil. Monounsaturated fats aren’t the best for cooking because of their susceptibility for oxidization and creation of free-radicals.
- Polyunsaturated fats include omega-3s and omega-6s, and the correct balance of these is important. A lot of the new “heart healthy” vegetable oils and margarine are polyunsaturated, but highly processed stuff. Processed polyunsaturated fats = bad, natural polyunsaturated fats = good, but they shouldn’t really be used for cooking.
Dishonorable Mention: Trans fats are the FrankenFats. They are fats that have hydrogen added to them (hydrogenated), in order to make them more shelf-stable. Trans fats are included in the trend of highly processed fats causing cholesterol problems.
7 Reasons You Need Fat in Your Diet
- vitamins A, D, E, and K are all fat-soluble – they need to dissolve in fat in order to properly perform their functions
- fats help you maintain your body temperature
- fats are necessary to provide important padding and insulation for your organs (see my scary experience with this reality here)
- fat is a building block of nerve tissue in the brain
- healthy fats aid mental clarity
- essential fatty acids keep your skin and hair moisturized
- dietary fat regulates your hormones
So, fats are good for you?
Naturally occurring fat is actually good for you.
Saturated fat benefits many very important bodily processes, and natural poly and mono-unsaturated fats promote healthy cholesterol levels. Just stay away from the vegetable oils and man-made concoctions like margarine and hydrogenated oils.
But what about all the studies???
How can fat not be bad for you?! This drum has resounded in our ears for more than 3 decades but has been proven incorrect over and over again.
The study that started this circus was done with less than scientific premises, politicians blindly ran with it, and we’ve been dealing with the collateral damage ever since.
Remember how most people in the 70s seemed to be pretty skinny? (If you ever run across a vintage pair of jeans from that time period, good luck fitting into them!) Well, it just so happens that the end of the 70s is when a low-fat diet started being recommended to the American population.
We can’t specifically link that to the obesity levels that immediately began rising, but wow, it sure seems like an interesting “coincidence”.
Fat has been blamed for much of the damage that sugar may actually be more responsible for.
Ok, but fatty foods have way too many calories, I don’t want to risk getting fatter!
It’s a valid concern for sure, since a gram of fat does have more calories than a gram of carbohydrates or protein.
The thing is that people on diets low in carbs and high in good fats actually tend to lose more weight than those on other types of diets.
This could be in part to the fact that eating healthy high-fat foods makes you feel more satisfied, causing you to naturally eat less, and you don’t get the gnawing, crave-y feeling that often characterizes the usual diets.
Eating a properly balanced diet higher in good fats can actually help you burn more calories than other types of diets.
So go enjoy some cream with your coffee, it will blow your mind! (David likes to say things like that.)
Here’s a good read on fat with muuuch more detail on all the things you probably have questions about.
The bottom line?
The truth is somewhat annoyingly simple: stick with natural sources.
We need healthy fats in our diet.
It’s really a shame that we had a whole generation steering clear of foods that are so beneficial to us. While we do have to be careful not to jump to conclusions, the exposure to many different ideas and opinions via the internet can help us think more critically.
After a bunch of research, these are the main fats that we feel best about incorporating into our diet for a combination of reasons. Some of it is based on wanting to eat lower-carb, some because of added nutrition, some because of being more economical.
We do also eat cheese, sour cream, and cream cheese, but since dairy is fairly controversial I decided to leave them off the infographic because it’s possible we may cut down on them.
Cooking & Baking
These have a higher smoke point – much slower to oxidize and create free radicals.
Garnishes & Salad Dressings
The best olive oil has a pretty low smoke point, so it’s really not good to cook with. That’s what puts it on this list, because it’s really good for you.
Flax seed oil could also be on this list, but it goes bad fairly quickly. Since we aren’t making our own oil, we prefer to get flax benefits in seed form.
MCT oil derived from coconuts aims to concentrate the best energy-giving aspects of it, however as a more processed product, it’s not really healthier. It may just be a more economical way to get energy on a ketogenic diet in particular.
Drinks & Smoothies
Many people are familiar with adding butter to their coffee, but in our opinion coconut or MCT oil works better for this, which is why butter’s not on this list.
Snacks & (in)Sides
(“insides” is just a play on ingredients because I wanted to say sides, ha)
These things are all great to incorporate into your diet! We also use cream cheese because it works well for a ketogenic-minded diet, but it’s not on the graphic because it has little nutritional benefit. I hesitated to put dairy on at all because it’s somewhat controversial in its benefit, and we may end up moving away from it at some point.
Cashew butter is one of several foods that kill cravings, so that’s why it’s not listed as simply cashews.
Ultimately, because most of us don’t have the knowledge and equipment to do exhaustive studies ourselves, there’s an aspect of stuff like this that you just have to choose to believe what you feel is the most credible source and test it out for yourself to see if your experience matches up.
We’d love to hear your thoughts!
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