Wait…fat makes you fit? Fat is good for you? YES.
Sounds too good to be true? The good news according to science, is that inclusion of fat in your diet is not at all bad for you—it actually helps you burn fat, among other benefits.
Harmful or healthy?
Before overindulging in pizza, burgers, and hotdogs, note that if you want to slim down, you need to watch for the total caloric content of your food. Latest studies have shown that overall nutritional and caloric content–not their saturated fat levels—that really causes weight gain and disease.
Get this: Studies have shown that though these usual fatty food choices such as fries and burgers raise LDL (bad cholesterol) levels, reevaluation has shown that they raise HDL (good) cholesterol just as much.
How do you choose your fats now? According nutritionist and national spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association Tara Gidus, RD: “Instead of making any one thing in the diet a villain, we need to look at total caloric content as well as quality of food, what are we eating that is ‘good’ and helping our body’s immune system and cells to stay healthy.”
Which fats to eat?
If you want to trim down, fats should come mainly from unsaturated sources, both polyunsaturated fats (PUFA) and monounsaturated fats (MUFA). PUFA (fish, walnuts and cooking oils) lower triglycerides and decreases your risk of heart disease, while MUFA (olive oil, avocados and nuts) are packed with nutrients and antioxidants. A 2009 study in the British Journal of Nutrition found that those consuming the most unsaturated fatty acids have lower BMI (body mass index) and less abdominal fat than those who consumed the least. Why? They ate food with better quality.
Another fat source is saturated fatty acids, found primarily in animal sources such as meat, dairy (butter, cheese, milk), and some content from vegetable oils (coconut, palm, etc.). For this type of fats, moderation is key. It’s also best to choose healthier sources and healthier-cooked saturated fats such as grilled grass-fed beef compared to say, deep-fried meat.
Which fats to avoid?
Trans fats, found in processed vegetable oils and processed foods have been tagged as generally harmful. The American Heart Association explains that the process of hydrogenation (even “partially hydrogenated”) applied to these types of animal products, used by companies to prolong their shelf life, as the cause in the creation of trans fatty acids.
Go for fat!
Here’s how a good fat diet not only helps you drop those unwanted pounds but boosts overall well-being:
- Your body burns fat better. Eating healthy fats help the liver to efficiently release old or mature fats at the lower portion of the body starting from your tummy all the way to your thighs. It pays to know which foods are considered healthy fats.
- You feel full longer. With more fat in your diet, your appetite is reduced due to its satiating effect since it takes a while to digest.
- You have more energy to exercise. A gram of fat has more than double the energy contained in carbohydrates and protein. More energy makes your metabolism better and helps you stay active
- ‘Low-fat’ labels don’t fool you. Dieters are often drawn to them but you may actually be consuming more calories even with less fat.
- The less you get sick from vitamin deficiency. Without fat, your body can’t absorb most nutrients like A, D, E, and K. And without these, you can suffer from a host of health problems, from brittle bones to muscle pains, dry skin, abnormal blood clotting and blindness.
So before banning fats from your diet, think again. Be smart about the positive and negative effects of what you eat. Aim not only to look good but feel good by optimizing the health benefits of proper nutrition.
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