I often get questions about healthy fats. My response has been informed by Real Food Movement. Gone is the misinformation of the 80’s that fat makes you fat and that all of it must be avoided. (Reference Guide to Fats in The Feel Good Cookbook) Guide to Sweeteners…
I talk a lot about how eating more of the right kinds of healthy fats can have tremendous impacts on our health. From brain function to metabolism to cardiovascular health, fat is an essential macronutrient with powerful effects throughout the entire body.
That’s because our cellular integrity and nutrient exchange depend on fats—our cells would literally collapse and starve to death without them. Cholesterol, unsaturated, and even saturated fats are all a crucial part of these processes. And omega-3 fats are specifically important for improving brain function, inflammation, and vision among many other benefits.
The low-fat recommendations that began decades ago quickly destroyed public health and have been debunked time and time again. We don’t get fat from eating fat, and not even from eating more and exercising less the way calorie-focused diet culture portrays.
In fact, research has shown being fat makes you eat more and exercise less, thanks to elevated hormones like insulin and leptin that make your fat cells hungrier and your body more inflamed and fatigued. High-glycemic carbohydrates are the drivers of the hormonal cascade leading this process, not fat. A high-fat diet can even reset and speed up your metabolism.
So what fats should you stay away from and what fats should you eat more of? And what about the best ways to use those good fats when it comes to preparing your meals?
I’m going to break this down for you into two parts, starting today with Part 1: Fats to Avoid, to help you navigate the many types of fat and oil that can hurt your health. But don’t worry, next week I’ll be providing you with lots of delicious alternatives in Part II.
Fats to Avoid
- Vegetable and seed oils. Canola, corn, soybean, grapeseed, safflower, peanut oil, palm oil, cottonseed, and vegetable oils should all be avoided as they’re highly processed, many of them are prone to being GMO, and they contribute to inflammation due to their fatty acid profiles. These are the types of oils used in most restaurants, especially for frying, but they can even be in seemingly healthy salad dressings. When eating out, don’t be afraid to ask what kinds of oils a kitchen uses and request a healthier alternative, like coconut oil for cooking and olive oil for salads.
- Anything hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated. These are made using a chemical process, taking vegetable oils like those listed above and turning them into solid fats (like margarine and vegetable shortening) for ease of use in packaged and prepared goods. This turns those oils into trans fats, which are a health nightmare. These kinds of fats increase LDL cholesterol, decrease HDL cholesterol, promote insulin resistance and inflammation, and increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. In fact, every 2% of calories eaten from trans fats increases the risk of heart disease by a staggering 23%.
- Sources of fat from conventionally produced meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy. You are what your meat eats; if you’re eating beef from feedlot cows and chicken from overcrowded hen houses, you’re getting poor-quality fats as well, due to the unnatural and junk ridden food they are fed. Same goes for eggs and dairy, the quality of life and diet the animals have drastically impacts their products.
- Fish that are high in mercury and other toxins. Larger fish are higher on the oceanic food chain, so they accumulate more mercury and toxins like PCBs—think swordfish, Chilean sea bass, halibut, and tuna. Play it safe and avoid these types of seafood, there are lots of other much healthier options you can enjoy instead, which I’ll be sharing with you next week.
I hope this introduction to fats helps you avoid the poor-quality ones that lurk in so many foods and can damage your health in more ways than one. Stay tuned next Tuesday for Part II of Your Guide to Fats: Fats to Embrace.
Wishing you health and happiness,
Mark Hyman, MD