Admit it. When it comes to fat, you're probably a walking contradiction. You avoid sugary drinks at all costs, rarely consume red meat and can't stomach anything fried. But put a box of the tasty cookies being peddled by your friends' little girls in front of you and all bets are off.
You're probably justifying this indulgence by reminding yourself that cookies are good for your sanity and your body needs a certain amount of fat to function properly. Just know deep down that cookies aren't exactly what the doctor ordered when it comes to good fats.
To help cut through the clutter about fat, Holly Underwood, MD, a primary care physician with HonorHealth Medical Group Mescal, notes which ones are good, which ones are bad and why fat needs to be part of your daily diet.
Because good fats don't raise cholesterol, they don't clog your arteries. In fact, when eaten in moderation, these healthy fats can help lower your cholesterol and reduce your risk of heart disease. In many cases, these healthy fats will be liquid at room temperature and solid when refrigerated.
Foods high in good fats include:
- Natural oils like olive and coconut oil.
- Nuts and seeds like almonds, cashews, hazelnuts, Brazil nuts, pumpkin seeds and sesame seeds.
- Butter and other dairy products. When produced from grass-fed cows, these products also are good sources of good fats. Of course, the key is moderation. Adding an entire stick of butter to your mashed potatoes won't do you any favors in the fat department.
- Fish like salmon, trout, tuna and mackerel. They contain a type of fat, Omega-3s, that have long been touted as a key to good health. Eating two servings of fatty fish each week is recommended by the American Heart Association. Hopefully, you and your family like fish!
Although they may taste yummy, what bad fats are doing to your body is anything but good.
The two types of bad fats are processed oils and trans fatty acids, which are proven to raise bad cholesterol levels, clog arteries and contribute to an increased risk of heart disease, colon cancer and prostate cancer. Usually man-made, these fats are often found in fast food and other junk foods.
Dr. Underwood said that feeding corn to cattle is a big reason why beef can be very high in saturated fat. Most animal products, including the meat, poultry skin, eggs and dairy products produced from corn-fed cows contain high levels of saturated fat.
The health benefits of fats
Like protein and carbohydrates, you need a certain amount of fat in your diet to maintain balance and good health. Fats affect your hormones. When the right kinds of fat are eaten in moderation, they help produce and regulate hormones, maintain healthy skin, and provide insulation and a source of stored energy. Storing too much fat that is accumulated from bad fat sources, however, is where you run into problems.
How much fat should I get?
As with all things, dietary guidelines on fat can vary from person to person based on age, sex, health status and more. Generally speaking, it is recommended that adults get 20 to 35 percent of their daily calories from fat, albeit the good kind.
Knowing that the types of fat you're eating makes all the difference, do you think it's time to trade the green box of cookies in front of you for avocados, olive oil and other naturally occurring sources of good fat?