For decades, Americans have been working off some misinformation that led us to avoid eating food with fat at all costs. This misinformation began spreading after World War II when researchers began publishing studies that linked foods with saturated fats to heart disease. Within two decades, there were abundant dietary recommendations about avoiding fats and choosing carbs. What was missed in this spread of information was the fact that there are different kinds of fats and carbs. The average person just began choosing to avoid fat for carbs, but they avoided healthy fats as well as unhealthy, and often chose unhealthy carbs over the healthy ones from fruits and vegetables. The resulting obesity epidemic came before we could stem the tide with the correction of information: healthy fats AND healthy carbs are best for all.
So what are healthy fats? Nature has provided us with healthy fats that can actually lower our weight and cholesterol and give us additional benefits, such as shiny hair and strong nails. Two of the most common categories of healthy fats are Monounsaturated Fats and Fatty Acids, many of which are a type of Polyunsaturated Fats. The American Heart Association recommends the following:
“For good health, the majority of the fats that you eat should be monounsaturated or polyunsaturated. Eat foods containing monounsaturated fats and/or polyunsaturated fats instead of foods that contain saturated fats and/or trans fats.”
These fats are commonly found in plant-based oils, such as olive oil, peanut oil, safflower oil, canola oil, and sesame oil. Replacing salad dressings and margarine with one of these oils is a strong step in the right direction. Monounsaturated fats are also in nuts, avocados, and peanut butter. These foods have the added benefit of providing protein, fiber, and a number of vitamins.
Fatty Acids/Polyunsaturated Fats
Foods rich is Omega-6, Omega-3, or “medium-chain” fatty acids are also important. In addition to increasing good cholesterol and heart health, these fats increase brain and memory function. One of the most beneficial of these is Coconut Oil, because of its many uses (on the hair and skin) and its anti-inflammatory properties. Fatty fish, butter, walnuts, flaxseed, chia seeds, and eggs can all provide these healthy fats. There are even vegetables that provide these healthy fats, including brussel sprouts, kale, spinach, and watercress.
In the article “The 5 Best Healthy Fats for your Body,” Dr. Axe gives a clear reminder:
“In other parts of the world, fat has always been welcome at the table. In the U.S.? We’re only now realizing the truth: Not all fats are created equally. Our bodies need fat — more specifically, they need healthy fats.”
It would seem it’s time for the fear of fats to be debunked for good. We can all use some healthy fats in our lives.