If you were around during the 1990’s, you should remember the low-fat/high-carb dietary fad that swept across the United States. Shelves were packed with “reduced fat” chips, cookies, and crackers, and while we have come along way in nutritional knowledge to know that these food items are not actually healthy for you, the public’s perception of all fat being unhealthy has still remained. Research has shown that certain types of dietary fat can improve our health, including the function and development of the brain, and lower our risk for certain diseases, including heart disease.
One of the main positives of certain dietary fats is they slow down the digestive system and contribute to feeling full and slows the rate at which sugars from carbohydrates enter our bloodstream. Fats move to certain parts of the body depending on what you do after you eat. If you go for a walk, those fats are transferred to your muscles for energy, but if you take a nap, those fats are stored in your tissue as it is not needed for energy.
There are four main types of dietary fats, and each has an impact on our health:
- Trans Fat: You may have heard the negative stereotypes associated with trans fat, and it’s reputation comes from the fact most trans fats are synthetic and made during food processing. While stability of these fats means that the food it is in will help it stay longer on the supermarket shelves, they can wreck havoc on our health and can have a negative impact on our cholesterol.
- Saturated Fats: These fats are mainly found in animal-derived food such as red meats and dairy. Saturated fats can increase our risk for LDL cholesterol and we should be concerned about our intake of them.
- Mono and Polyunsaturated Fats: Both of these fats (known as MUFAs and PUFAs respectively) are recognized more for their health benefits than trans and saturated fats. They are found in plant and fish-based products and can help moderate inflammation, blood clotting, and muscle contractions, while improving blood cholesterol levels and protect against heart disease.
Although fats should not be a heavy part of your diet, choosing to moderately incorporate mono and polyunsaturated fats into your diet can actually be beneficial for you. Fats have a place in a healthy diet, and by adding more plant and fish-based products while looking out for the trans and saturated fats wreaking havoc on your body, you can have a balanced diet that will keep your body healthy and strong.