Does eating fat make you fat?

What’s the Deal With Fat:

Low-fat, no fat, fat free…the supermarkets are flooded with products announcing one way or another that their product is fat free and therefore making shoppers think it’s healthy.  Or is it?  Why has fat gotten such a bad rap?

For years all fat was lumped into the same category and said to raise cholesterol, increase risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, high blood pressure and more!

While it’s true that not all fats are healthy, and in fact, some (like trans fats) should be avoided, fat is an essential macronutrient that our bodies depend on for many, many things.  So how do you know which fats to eat and which you should ignore?  And why do our bodies require fat anyways?

Why We Need Fat:

Most of the fat we need is made by our bodies, but there are some fats our bodies cannot make – we can only get these fats by eating them or through supplementation.  These fats are called “essential” fats because it is essential that we get them from food. Essential fatty acids (EFAs) include Omega-3 fats (found in foods such as fish and flax seed) and Omega-6 fats (found in foods such as nuts and seeds).  These are the parent oils these other fatty acids can be made from.  EFAs are components of the cell membranes, hormones and the nervous system – they are crucial to the regulation of emotions and mood, brain function and nerve impulses.

What EFAs Do:

•Speed up metabolism in those who are sedentary or obese
•Required in the making of neurotransmitters, for making all hormones and for healthy brain function and mental clarity
•Required for proper functioning of the immune system (activates T cells)
•Regulate the action of insulin
•Important for growth of blood vessels
•Keep the skin and other tissues supple and lubricated
•Are a human growth factor – stimulate growth
•Help us recover from fatigue
•Part of our DNA
•Facilitate oxygen transfer into cells
•Provide energy! Fat provides more energy than even protein or carbs
•Act as carriers for fat soluble vitamins in the body like vitamins A, D, E and K

When Fats Become Bad:

Hydrogenation of oils lowers the quality of oils and converts some of the unsaturated
fatty acids into trans fats.  Trans fats increase blood cholesterol and LDL (bad) cholesterol and increase the risk of atherosclerosis which is hardening of the arteries. Trans fats can displace essential fatty acids in our system, which can cause an alteration of cell membrane function. Trans fats in the heart and the smooth muscle might be a factor in the development of cardiovascular disease.  Examples of trans fats are: deep fried foods, margarine, essentially any soft spreadable fats.

The Bottom Line:

Now that we know healthy fat is actually our friend, what should we be eating?  Sources of healthy fat include fish, nuts, olive and coconut oils, avocados and avocado oil, nuts and seeds.  Along with all the benefits listed above, healthy fats also provide our bodies with loads of energy and help us stay feeling full longer – even more reasons to make sure this powerful macronutrient is included in every meal.

 

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