The Easy Guide to Fats

Know Your Fats - Quick Guide

Fat is a macronutrient that is crucial to the proper functioning of our bodies and brain.

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The sad thing is, many people are still stuck in the (very 1980's) trend of avoiding fat at all costs. Many of my clients have serious hang-ups about the calories from fat ruining their waistline, or the feeling of fat in their mouth, because they are so trained that it is bad for them.

However, what we need to understand is that fat plays many important roles in the body, including being a source of energy. Fats are made up of individual fatty acid molecules which join together to make chains. These chains vary in length (short-, medium- or long-chain), and each type of fat offers different benefits. The structure of fat also determines whether a particular fat is solid or liquid at room temperature. For years (for decades, some of us) we have been taught that fat should be avoided at all costs, but this is simply not true. We need fats, good fats, to live and for cognitive function. (If you have brain fog while on a low-fat diet, you'll understand what I mean!)

You need fats for skin health too! Among many other reasons, us women can use all the creams and potions we want to help our dry, dehydrated skin but it won't do much at all to solve the root cause - unless we are eating right.

Are you still afraid of fats? You’re not alone. Fat in foods has been the villain in North America for the past few decades, as low-fat and non-fat foods became the new normal we were told that a low-fat diet would help us get the body we want. According to numerous 'alternative diet' resouces, the fact that saturated fat should be avoided is one of the biggest lies we've been told.

There are a lot of healthy fats out there, we just have to take a look. In other parts of the world, fat has always been welcome at the table. Here in Canada, we’re only recently realizing the truth, that not all fats are created equally. 

How Did We Get Here?
According to Dr. Axe: "Post-World War II, research began emerging that seemed to link foods with saturated fats, like eggs and red meat, to coronary heart disease. By the 1960s, the American Heart Association had recommended that people reduce their fat intake, and in 1976, the U.S. Senate held a series of committee meetings, “Diet Related to Killer Diseases,” on the topic. Subsequent food guidelines advocated for eating less saturated fat and more carbohydrates. The war on fat had begun.

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While the guidelines advocated for more carbs in the form of fruits, vegetables and whole grains, what the average American understood was that carbs — any kind of carbs — were good (even refined carbohydrates!) while fat was bad. The food industry pounced: High-carb, low-fat foods became the norm. Grocery store shelves and refrigerators were soon lined with low- and no-fat items that were packed with sugar — because without any natural fat, a lot of favorite foods just didn’t taste good anymore. Not coincidentally, both a sugar addiction as well as an obesity epidemic in America began soon after low-fat diets became the standard recommendation. 

The problem? None of the studies actually linked high-fat diets to heart disease. The science just wasn’t there. In fact, numerous studies have since debunked the myth. It’s been proved there is no evidence that dietary saturated fat increases a person’s risk for coronary heart disease or cardiovascular disease. 

Additionally, a seven-year study of more than 48,000 women showed that low-fat diets don’t lead to more weight loss or less disease. (3) And yet another study found that, when subjects ate either a Mediterranean diet, low-fat diet or low-carb diet, those following a high-fat, low-carb meal plan not only lost the most weight, but also drastically reduced their bad cholesterol levels."

Traditional foods wisdom: It turns out our ancestors were right all along: Healthy fats can be good!

Good Fats

Good fats are those that have not been hydrogenated, manufactured with high temperatures or otherwise damaged in the processing humans do. Good fats include a variety of saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated fats. Including these fats regularly in your diet maintains healthy cells. Good fats also support healthy immune and hormonal systems. Good fats include items like butter, coconut oil, EV olive oil, and even animal fats like lard and tallow.

The Bad Fats

The bad fats include processed, heated, deodorized and/or bleached vegetable oils and rancid fats. It's suggested you avoid these bad fats. Examples include vegetable oils like corn, soy, canola and cottonseed oils. Any polyunsaturated oils that have been exposed to heat, light or oxygen in manufacturing should be avoided.

... and the Ugly

The 'really' bad fats include hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils and trans fats. These ugly fats are often found in margarine and spreads as well as many baked goods and processed foods. Altered fats have no place in the diet or in our food supply! Ugly fats offer no nutritional value and have been linked to the rises in obesity, metabolic syndrome, heart disease, and cancer.

SUMMARY OF GOOD FATS TO INCLUDE

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  • Avocado
  • Butter
  • Chia seeds
  • Coconut oil
  • Coconut milk
  • Cod liver oil
  • Duck, chicken, and goose fat
  • Flax oil and seeds
  • Ghee (clarified butter)
  • Lard
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Olive oil (extra-virgin)
  • Pastured organic meats
  • Sesame oil (expeller pressed)
  • Tallow

SUMMARY OF BAD AND UGLY FATS TO AVOID

  • Canola oil
  • Corn oil
  • Soybean oil
  • “Vegetable” oil
  • Peanut oil
  • Sunflower oil
  • Safflower oil
  • Cottonseed oil
  • Grapeseed oil
  • Margarine
  • Shortening
  • I Can’t Believe It's Not Butter
  • Smart Balance/Any fake butter or vegetable oil products

Enjoy eating healthy fats and reading labels or making switches in your kitchen to upgrade the fats and oils you use. It makes a huge difference and is one that often people can feel. Switching our fats is one of the biggest upgrades we can make in our nutrition, wishing you the best of luck in this big move!