The low fat/ no fat craze of the 1990s is long gone, but its effects continue to linger in the subconscious eating patterns of so many of us. While fat was once demonized as the culprit of a multitude of health problems, researchers have now shown over and over again that fat is not actually to blame for the problems it was once villainized for: heart disease, obesity, and high cholesterol. It turns out that such claims were based on limited and erroneous studies to begin with, and fat is not only not bad, but actually good for you. Read on to find out why fat deserves a place in any healthy diet.
Fat’s Top Benefits:
Improved Nutrient Absorption. Not only can healthy fat sources offer nutrients such as vitamin E and K, but it can help with the absorption of nutrients from the other foods you eat as well. Fat soluble (vitamins A, D, E, and K) require fat for the body to make them bioavailable. Along with these vitamins, other enzymes and nutrients also require the consumption of fat to be properly utilized. So even if you are eating an exceptionally nutritious meal, if you aren’t including a healthy fat source in that meal, you are missing out on some major nutritional benefits.
Waistline. We now know that the idea of eating fat making us fat is a myth. In reality, studies have shown that just the opposite is true. Eating fat can actually help you stay slim. Fat supports healthy metabolic function as well as helps you to feel full and satisfied longer. The increased satiety of consuming meals that include a healthy fat source help you to consume fewer empty calories.
Heart Health. Eating diets high in healthy fats and low in refined carbohydrates have been shown to help decrease bad (LDL) cholesterol while increasing good (HDL) cholesterol. Higher levels of HDL are linked with a lower risk of heart disease. Studies have shown that cultures with high fat diets have lower rates of heart disease than that of cultures with low fat diets.
Brain Booster. The essential fatty acids found in foods like salmon, walnuts, and extra virgin olive oil are believed to have a protective effect on the brain, potentially decreasing the risk for dementia and memory loss. These fatty acids have also been linked with boosting performance on cognitive function.
Beauty. Looking for the secret to shiny hair, soft skin, and strong nails? Turns out it is not in your bathroom vanity, but instead in your kitchen! Healthy fats help to keep hair, skin, and nails in top condition. Without fat, skin can become dry and hair and nails can become brittle.
The Fine Print: Remember, not all fats are created equally. While fats from whole, real foods such as avocado, nuts, seeds and unrefined oils are key to a healthy diet, processed fats still remain unhealthy and even dangerous to your health. When fats are heavily processed the chemical structure is altered, making them undesirable. The bottom line is to add in plenty of healthy fats to your diet while continuing to avoid processed fats, hydrogenated oils, and trans fats.