Day 17. Fats
The Science Behind Fats and Your Health
If you’ve ever tried a fad diet in the last three decades, chances are you’ve come across the idea that eating less fat will help you lose weight. While it might make sense to begin with (you are what you eat, right?), the science doesn’t back it up. In fact, new research is showing that if you want to lose weight, including healthy fats in your diet is one of the most effective ways to do so.
Why Fats Matter
Every body needs fats - including yours. Dietary fat is essential for cell growth, organ protection, producing important hormones, and absorbing nutrients. If you were to cut fat out of your diet completely, you would become very sick.
However, not all fats are created equal. If your goal is a healthy diet (and we hope it is!), it’s crucial to be picky about what types of fats you eat, and what kinds you avoid.
Choose healthy fats for the following benefits:
• Lose weight more quickly
• Stay fuller longer
• Decrease your insulin resistance
• Eat fewer carbs, which means you eat less sugar
• Lower your risk of depression
Avoid unhealthy fats to keep yourself from experiencing the following issues:
• Consuming more calories
• Consuming foods that tend to have fewer nutrients
• Having a higher risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease
• Tending to eat fewer healthy fats
Healthy Vs. Unhealthy Fats
So what is a healthy fat, and how can you spot it? Look for these two types of fat listed on a food’s nutrition label:
• Monounsaturated Fat: These healthy fats are liquid at room temperature, but they start to solidify if kept in a cooler place. You’ll find them in olive oil and avocados. Monounsaturated fats are associated with a lower risk for cardiovascular disease.1
• Polyunsaturated Fat: You’ll find these fats in sesame and sunflower seeds, as well as many nuts. Eating polyunsaturated fats instead of unhealthy fats can help to lower your bad cholesterol levels.2
These two types of fat also contain omega 3 and omega 6. Your body needs these “fatty acids” to function at its best. You’ll find omega fatty acids in salmon, chia seeds, and soybeans.
The other side of the coin is unhealthy fats. Avoid these two fats as you make decisions on what to add to your diet:
• Saturated Fats: Saturated fats are associated with higher cholesterol and a greater risk of heart disease. These “unhealthy fats” should be limited or avoided. You’ll find them in red meat, butter, and full fat dairy.
• Trans Fat: Stay away from this kind of fat! These fats have been chemically changed to make processed food last longer. They’ll raise your bad cholesterol, lower your good cholesterol, and increase your risk of heart disease.
Ongoing research is examining the connection between trans fats and insulin resistance, which is a huge risk factor for diabetes.3 You’ll find trans fats in margarine and processed foods.
Limiting your intake of saturated fats is the best choice for a healthy diet. Completely avoiding trans fats is crucial for a healthy life.
An analysis carried out by researchers with the Harvard School of Public Health Department of Nutrition found that eliminating trans fats from the US food supply could prevent up to 1 in 5 heart attacks and related deaths.4 That’s 250,000 fewer deaths from heart disease every year. The impact unhealthy fats have on our health is huge. Cutting back or getting rid of them completely will improve your health, as well as leave room in your diet for healthier choices.
Make it Happen
Are you ready to make healthy choices about the types of fats you allow in your diet? Are you willing to cut out trans fats and limit saturated fats in order to make room for healthier, more nutritious choices?
Make a Change: Limit the amount of saturated fat you eat each day to 12 grams. Eat trans fats no more than once a week. Add two servings of healthy fats to your diet every day.
1. Gillingham, L.G., Harris-Janz, S.,& Jones, P.J. (2011). Dietary monounsaturated fatty acids are protective against metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular disease risk factors. Lipids, 46(3), 209-28. DOI: 10.1007/ s11745-010-3524-y
2. The truth about fats: the good, the bad, and the in-between. Harvard Health Publications, (2015). http:// www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/the-truth-about-fats-bad-and-good
3. Odegaard, A.O. & Pereira, M.A. (2006). Trans fatty acids, insulin resistance, and type 2 diabetes. Nutri- tion Review, 64(8), 364-72. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16958313
4. Ascherio, A., Mozaffarian, D., Katan., M. B., Stampfer M. J., & Willet, W. C. (2006). Trans fatty acids and cardiovascular disease. New England Journal of Medicine, 354(15), 1601-1613. doi: 10.1056/NEJM- ra054035
Challenge Yourself: Limit the amount of saturated fat you eat each day to 10 grams. Eliminate trans fats from your diet completely. Add three servings of healthy fats to your diet every day.
The more you pay attention to the types of fat you eat, the more you’ll find that you don’t miss the foods that are high in unhealthy fats. By clearing out unhealthy fats, you’ll have more room in your diet for healthier, more nutritious, and more filling choices.
Think Long Term
1. Read Labels: Food manufacturers are required to list the amount of trans and saturated fats their products contain. As you shop, check each item to see exactly what types of fat are in it. Also, be sure to double check the portion size. You may be surprised at how many grams of fat can hide in a very small serving.
2. Know Which Unhealthy Fats You Tend to Eat: You likely find some foods more tempting than others. For example, you might find it easy to give up fried foods in favor of healthier fats, but it may be more difficult to go without your favorite processed sweets. Take a close look at the foods you snack on most often and get rid of whatever contains unhealthy fats.
3. Eat Fish: Fish is full of healthy fat. In fact, two servings a week will give you your recommended amount of omega-3 fatty acids. Tuna, salmon, and trout are all healthy, nutrient-rich sources of healthy fats. Be mindful of your preparation methods, though—bake or grill your fish to get all their goodness without the added calories or saturated fats that pan-frying can provide.
4. Switch to Olive Oil: If you haven’t already, switch your regular cooking oil out for olive oil. Extra virgin olive oil is associated with lower blood pressure, better cholesterol, and lower heart disease risk.
5. Avoid Processed Foods: Processed foods such as cookies, cakes, crackers, margarine, frozen pizza, and frozen pie crusts are often made with trans fats. Trans fats have a long shelf life, so they’re a go-to ingredient for many manufacturers. By choosing to make fresh, home- made meals or substituting with a high-protein shake, you eliminate the need for harmful trans fats.
Think Long Term
The habits you’ve learned over your 21 Day Challenge are ones that you can carry through for the long term. Here are a two more ideas to help make sure healthy fats stay front and center in your diet.
• Try a supplement. If you’re having trouble hitting your goals for healthy fats, try Unicity’s Omega 3 fish oil supplement. It’s a simple way to make sure you’re getting enough omega 3.
• Don’t cut out fats altogether. Just because a food claims to be “low-fat” doesn’t mean it’s good for you. Many low fat foods are filled with calories and sugar, because otherwise they wouldn’t taste good. Read all labels carefully, and ignore sensational marketing claims.
• Try other cooking methods. Unhealthy fats add a lot of flavor to foods, making them a commonly used cooking method. However, food can be just as enjoyable when grilled, roasted, or slow cooked. Experiment with new cooking styles to find foods that are just as satisfying as their fatty counterparts while being much better for you.