Most of us can easily remember a time when eating fats was the number one dieting no-no. In fact, there’s an entire generation of people who grew up believing that staying fit depended on following a fat-free diet. When the first-ever set of U.S. Dietary Guidelines was introduced in the ‘70s, fat was the ultimate villain. Along with eating more fruits and veggies, Americans were told to avoid total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, and sodium. They were also told that everyone except young children should opt for low-fat and non-fat dairy products, and so began the fat-free craze of the last 40 years.
But you guessed it: much of what we were taught about eating fats wasn’t exactly true. According to a study from JAMA Internal Medicine, the early narratives about fat aimed to take the focus off the cardiovascular damage sugar can do and shift the blame to saturated fat instead. While fats are typically higher-calorie foods, research now shows eating healthy fats can make for a better diet overall.
Here’s the skinny on why you need to stop fearing fats.
Our bodies need fat to carry out basic processes. Essential nutrients like vitamins A, E, and K are fat-soluble, which means they need to be bound in fat in order for our bodies to use them.
Dietary fat also helps maintain your body temperature, insulates your organs, supports hormone production and cell growth, and gives us energy – which is all pretty important.
Fat makes food tender, rich, and just plain delicious. So when manufacturers remove fat from processed foods, they typically replace it with sugar or artificial flavorings to give the product that same satisfying taste. While most full fat foods – like all foods – should be consumed in moderation, it’s usually better to opt for the original version than its “skim” or low-fat alternatives.
Not all fats are created equal, and some are better for you than others. The three major types of fat include:
Unsaturated fat may lower LDL, or “bad” cholesterol levels, and can reduce a person’s risk for heart disease. Saturated and trans fats can have the opposite effect, increasing your risk of heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes.
In general, trans fats should be avoided, saturated fats should be consumed in moderation, and unsaturated fats have been proven to be healthier for the human body. Try incorporating these fatty superfoods into your diet.
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