Over the last few decades, fat, and particularly saturated fat, has been demonized. We’ve been told it’s the cause of everything from weight gain to heart disease and high blood pressure. However, new studies have shown that saturated fats can actually benefit our bodies and our brains.
The skinny on saturated fat
The saturated fat study that made everyone turn to low fat foods has now been proven to be deeply flawed. Researchers didn’t account for important factors like smoking, sugar consumption and exercise among the populations they studied. They also completely skipped over studying populations that ate high amounts of saturated fat but had relatively no heart disease. You heard that right- no heart disease!
Hardly. Once the recommendation to decrease the amount of fat you eat and increase the amount of carbohydrates you eat from sources like grains, things just got worse. If you remember the food pyramid, you may remember that it suggested 11 servings of grains. Oddly enough, the obesity rate has doubled since we started to consume 30-40% less fat but more starchy carbohydrates.
In terms of just eating fat, it often tastes good and is filling. A healthy salad topped with extra virgin olive oil, or a hearty omelet made with eggs instead of egg whites is much more likely to keep you satiated that a bowl of cereal or a bowl of brown rice.
– If you don’t have enough healthy saturated fat in your diet, your hormones are likely to suffer. Saturated fats help increase testosterone levels, which are important for tissue repair, muscle growth and sexual function.
Mood and brain health
– Healthy fats can also improve our mood. Although we’ve been told cholesterol is a bad thing, it is absolutely critical to your mental health and your brain. Low levels of cholesterol can lead to depression, as well as cognitive decline.
– Healthy fats help you absorb nutrients! Many supplements are best taken with food because the fats will help them be absorbed. When you’re cooking, it’s best to add at least small amounts of fat so that all of the nutrients will be absorbed. So, sauté your veggies; top your salads with extra virgin olive oil, add avocado or nut butters to your smoothies and make your veggie omelets with real eggs.
Healthy fats to stick with
Keep in mind that not all fats are created equal. There are good fats and bad fats. Here are a few of my favorite healthy choices:
– Nuts and nut oils, which are great for cooking
– Coconut products- oil, butter, chips, flour, etc.
– Wild- caught salmon and sardines
You want to avoid the kind of fats that are typically found in processed foods. Sunflower, canola and cotton oil are not good for your heart, and if you flip over a bag of chips or a box of crackers, you’ll find that almost every brand is made with a combination of these oils. The same goes for fast food, so limit your drive-thru days and focus on the healthy fats that will actually fill you up and benefit you.