Why Some Fats Are Good, and Some Are Bad

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Fat is a much maligned and misunderstood nutrient; it is only in recent years that our understanding of fats has significantly improved. 

 

For years, we were told that we should avoid fat in all its forms because it would make us gain weight and give us heart disease. Today, we know that getting a proper amount of fat in the diet is critical for maintaining good health, including heart health. However, eating fat is also good for our skin and brain, necessary for absorbing certain nutrients, and can be beneficial for maintaining a healthy weight.    

 

Our attitude on fat has changed so much in the last few years, that one of the most popular diets––the ketogenic diet––encourages people to consume a majority of their daily calories from fat. We’ve literally done a 180-degree turn in our attitude towards fat!

 

While mainstream attitudes have changed about fat, deciding how much and what kinds of fats are healthy deserves a slightly more nuanced discussion.

 

Unsaturated Fat

Unsaturated fats are thought to be the healthiest kinds of fats to consume. These are typically liquid at room temperature. 

 

There are two kinds of unsaturated fat––monounsaturated fat and polyunsaturated fat. Polyunsaturated fats include Omega 3 fatty acids, which are known to provide a number of health benefits. The best sources of these kinds of fats are fatty fish, such as salmon, tuna, mackerel, etc. Omega 3s are also prevalent in walnuts, chia seeds, and flax seeds.

 

Monounsaturated fats are another beneficial type of fat and are prevalent in olive oil, avocados, hazelnuts, Brazil nuts, cashews, sesame seeds and pumpkin seeds. Eating these types of fats are also associated with good heart health and other benefits. 

 

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Saturated Fat

Saturated fats are typically solid at room temperature and found in meat, eggs and dairy products. They are also found in coconut oil and palm oil. 

 

Saturated fats are still demonized because they are thought to increase cholesterol and play a role in the clogging of arteries that lead to heart disease. But often, conflicting data emerges on whether we should be demonizing saturated fats to the degree that we do.

 

 Like all things, moderation with saturated fats is prudent. Many of the foods on The Kaufmann Diet contain saturated fat, such as grass fed beef, coconut oil, and eggs. We know that these foods are can be part of a healthy diet that promotes health and proper weight. We also know that the brain is well-fueled with a mix of saturated and unsaturated fats, and that hormone production is closely linked with having some saturated fat in the diet.

 

Trans fats

There are two types of trans fats: Those naturally found in animal products, and those that are artificial. 

 

Ironically, trans fats and hydrogenated oils were once recommended as part of a heart healthy diet. We now know that they play far more of a role in heart disease than naturally-occurring fats. Artificial trans fats should always be avoided. Artificial trans fats are prevalent throughout our food system; these include many of the hydrogenated oils found in processed foods, fried foods, shortening, and margarine. These should unilaterally be avoided. 

 

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