After years of being told to limit fat in your diet, now we are telling you that fat — as long as it's the healthy kind — is part of good nutrition.
Finally, there’s the news we've all been waiting for when it comes to the right diet: Eat more fat. But you may well be asking how can that possibly be true — or healthy? The recent recommendations to focus more on fat in the diet for better nutrition don’t apply to all fats. Only the “good” fats are recommended to boost health.
Fat in the Diet: What Is Healthy Fat?
Fats are now divided up into good or bad categories. We talk about fats differently now, they all used to be put together, and now we separate them out. We steer clear of the saturated and the trans fats, which are unhealthy, and lean toward the other ones.
The recommendations about ensuring adequate daily fat intake only pertain to the healthy fats. We are not advocating eating more fried foods or desserts. The unsaturated fats are the kind that are better for us, unsaturated fats, both the mono- and poly-unsaturated kinds, include fats like the anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids - think Oily fish: salmon, mackerel, herring, sardines etc..
Fat in the Diet: The Link Between Fats and Weight
Despite what's been previously preached, fat is a necessary part of a healthy diet. Without it, the Brits tend to put on more weight. During the 1960s, before the low-fat diet craze, people got about 45 percent of their daily calories from fat. Back then, only a very small percentage of the British population were obese.
Today, it suggested that around 64% of the British population are overweight or obese, and only about 33 percent of our daily calories come from fat. Why the discrepancy? One possible reason is that people are exchanging fats for even more unhealthy alternatives, like calorie-rich, sugar-laden carbohydrates.
There's actually no proof that restricting fats in the diet improves weight loss or reduces heart disease risk. A major study by the Women's Health Initiative found no health benefit in women who followed a low-fat diet over those who didn't restrict their fats. And a Nurses' Health Study found no improvement in heart health or weight loss, probably because they were cutting out the protective good fats as well as bad fats.
The current recommendation is between three and nine servings of fats each day; most of these should come from good fats, with very little saturated fat and ideally no trans fat.
Fat in the Diet: Why Good Fats Are Good for the Body
Good fats are important for the body in a variety of ways, improved heart health among them, says Meyerowitz. And they're such an important part of a healthy diet because your body doesn't make essential fatty acids, some of the most important fats. To get what your body needs for good heart and brain health, you have to eat them. Change the way that you cook, says Meyerowitz, and use healthy vegetable oils. Snack on nuts, add avocados to salads and sandwiches, and dress up dishes with olives.
Fat in the Diet: Finding Good Fats
Foods with the good fats that can help boost your health include:
Fat in the Diet: The Bottom Line on FatsWhile some fats should be limited (saturated) or avoided altogether (trans fats), don't think of fat as a dirty word, and don't deprive yourself of foods that are both healthy and delicious. Feed your body the good fats that it craves — your heart and brain need fat to function.
Your guide to living whole and well. Emma Olliff is a Registered Nutritional Therapist, wellness expert, food lover, and advocate for healthy living!