People have been afraid of fats for many years. It has been assumed that if someone eats fat, then they will store it as fat or become fat, while the truth is that any macronutrient eaten in excess is later stored as fat.
Fats are enjoyable to eat – they make things more rich, creamy, add mouthfeel, help with satiety, but the type of fat that is eaten does need to be taken into consideration. There are 3 different types of fats: saturated fat, trans fat and unsaturated fats. Saturated fats and trans fats should be minimally consumed, as recommended by the American Heart Association, as these fats raise “bad” LDL cholesterol and lower the “good” HDL cholesterol. Saturated fats are often found in animal products such as meat and dairy, and trans fats are found in highly processed foods, margarine and hydrogenated oils. The unsaturated fats are going to be the heart healthy fats, that raise the HDL cholesterol and work to lower the total and LDL cholesterol. These are found in things such as avocados, olive oil, nuts and nut butters and fatty fish.
There are 2 types of heart healthy or unsaturated fats: monounsaturated and polyunsaturated. Omega 3s and Omega 6s are the polyunsaturated fats that are essential fatty acids. When something is called “essential” it means that it must be consumed in the diet and cannot be made in the body. These 2 fatty acids must be consumed in the diet, the best source being food rather than supplements. Omega 3s and Omega 6s cannot be converted to one another and have different functions in the body. In the American diet, much higher amounts of Omega 6s are consumed compared to Omega 3s. This is because processed foods are often processed with or contain vegetable or soybean oils, which have high amounts of omega 6 but little to no omega 3s. This causes an imbalance of the ratio of omega 3 to omega 6, which can result in inflammation over time. Low grade inflammation of one’s entire system poses to be a significant risk factor in development of cardiovascular disease.
According to the CDC, 1 in 4 people die from heart disease, so it is critical that the body is fueled with the proper fats for heart health and brain function. To consume less omega 6s, work on decreasing the amount of vegetable oils consumed, including sunflower, corn, vegetable and instead increasing consumption of olive and avocado oil, fish, walnuts, flaxseed and flaxseed oil. This will increase omega 3s in the body and work on balancing the ratio of essential fatty acids. Fats are back in style, just make sure to choose the right fat!
Disclaimer: This information is educational only and not providing healthcare recommendations. Please see a healthcare provider.