Are you still trying to avoid fat because you think it’s too calorie-dense? Low-fat diets are losing their luster as more experts emphasise the benefits of eating healthy fats. That doesn’t mean you have to pile your plate high with bacon. Nuts, olive oil, fatty fish and avocados are good sources of heart-healthy fats that most people don’t get enough of. Coconut oil, a saturated fat that’s processed differently by your body than animal fats may actually have health benefits. Here are four reasons why you shouldn’t be afraid to eat fat.
Fat is Satiating
Fat stimulates the release of hormones like CCK that make you feel full more quickly. Plus, fat slows down how quickly food moves through your intestinal tract so you stay full longer after a meal. That helps you reduce those annoying carb cravings that cause you to snack on the wrong foods.
Replacing Processed Carbs with Fat Creates a More Hormonal Balance
When you replace a portion of your carbs with fat, it creates a more favorable hormonal environment. Your pancreas releases less insulin than it does with a higher carb meal and you have less insulin hanging around to help you store body fat.
It Helps You Absorb Fat-Soluble Nutrients
When you eat a salad and put a non-fat dressing on it, you won’t absorb the fat-soluble vitamins in the veggies you’re eating unless you add another source of fat to your salad such as nuts or cheese. Fat-soluble vitamins include vitamins A, D, E and K. Plus, you have more difficulty absorbing fat-soluble antioxidants like beta-carotene when you eat a fat-free salad. When you enjoy a plate of vegetables, you’ll get greater fat-soluble nutrient absorption if you saute them in a healthy source of fat like olive oil.
Fat is Important for Brain Health
A significant portion of your brain is fat. Research shows the omega-3 fatty acid DHA is important for brain development in babies. In addition, some research shows adults that have a low intake of long-chain omega-3s, DHA and EPA, have a smaller total brain volume and perform worse on tests of memory and cognitive function than those that got more of these healthy dietary fats. Studies looking at whether diets rich in DHA and EPA actually prevent cognitive decline due to aging are conflicting.
It May Not Reduce Your Risk for Chronic Disease
At one time, experts believe eating a low-fat diet offered protection against heart disease and certain types of cancer. A large study called The Women’s Health Initiative Dietary Modification Trial suggests otherwise. This study involving 50,000 women showed a low-fat diet offered no protection against heart disease, colon cancer or breast cancer. By the end of the eight-year study, women who ate a low-fat diet were similar in body weight to those that didn’t. Limiting fat in your diet may not protect against chronic diseases like cancer and heart disease like some experts had hoped.
Choose Healthy Fats
Recent research shows the polyunsaturated fats in vegetable oils including corn oil and soybean oil in most processed foods are high in omega-6 fatty acids. Most people get too many omega-6 fatty acids in their diet and not enough omega-3s. When you consume vegetable oils like corn oil, soybean oil, safflower oil, and sunflower oil, you’re taking in a high ratio of omega-6 to omega-3. This creates a pro-inflammatory state in your body that’s not healthy for your heart or your health. It’s important to balance out your omega-6 to omega-3 ratio by getting a larger portion of your fat from sources rich in long-chain omega-3s like fatty fish.
Should you be afraid of saturated fat? It’s true that eating a diet rich in saturated fats can elevate LDL-cholesterol but saturated fat doesn’t have the pro-inflammatory effect that the polyunsaturated fats in vegetable oils have. Many of the fats in vegetable oils, the ones in most processed foods, are high in inflammatory omega-6s. Some experts believe inflammation is a contributor to heart disease because it damages arterial walls. Plus, saturated fats like coconut oil are also easier to cook with because they’re stable and don’t form free radicals when taken to a high temperature.
That doesn’t mean you should load up on saturated fat but don’t assume that omega-6-rich vegetable oils are better for you. Make monounsaturated dietary fats from sources like nuts and olive oils a part of your diet and choose more omega-3s from sources like fatty fish, walnuts, and flaxseed to balance out the omega-6s that most people get too much of. Purge trans-fats from your diet. They’re the worst kind of fat for your arteries.
The Bottom Line?
You need a certain amount of healthy fat in your diet. People who eat a low-fat diet typically eat more sugar and processed carbs. Sugar and processed carbs aren’t a good substitute for fat. Enjoy healthy fats in your diet in moderation.
Gut. 1994 April; 35(4): 501-505.
Diabetologia. 2001 Mar;44(3):312-9.
WebMD. ” A Little Fat Helps the Vegetables God Down”
UC Irvine. “More Evidence that Omega-3 Fatty Acids Support Brain Health”
Harvard School of Public Health. “Low-Fat Diet Not a Cure-All”
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