Fat is a healthy nutrient. Yes, fats are good for you. The trick is to eat the right fats in the right quantity. Most Americans eat too much of the wrong kinds of fats.
What does good fat do for you?
- Provides energy
- Builds healthy cells
- Provides essential structure for brain function
- Helps your body use vitamins
- Is a component of hormones
- Makes healthier skin
- Forms protective cushion for your organs
- Carries flavor in foods
You need some fat in your diet. A no-fat diet is not a healthy diet! What about a low-fat diet? It can be good or bad for you depending on what kind of fats you are consuming.
How to tell a good fat from a bad fat
There are three basic types of fats, monounsaturated fats, polyunsaturated fats and saturated fats. The first two, monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats, are the good fats. The last one, the saturated fat is the bad guy. Can you tell the difference by just looking at them? Yep, at room temperature the good guys flow, like oil and the bad guy just sits there, a greasy blob like shortening.
And even badder than bad - hydrogenated fats! To make hydrogenated fats, unsaturated oils are artificially zapped with hydrogen and are turned into saturated fats. These Frankenstein fats contain trans fatty acids which do no good and do plenty of harm. Trans fatty acids elevate blood cholesterol levels and do not provide the essential nutrients the body needs from fats. How much Frankenstein fat have you eaten today?
Let's talk about the good stuff now. The good fats contain the two essential fatty acids, omega-3 and omega-6. Fats contain other useful fatty acids but these two are essential for life and health. The good fats are unaltered vegetable and fish fats. Vegetable fats come from seeds, nuts and fruits. The best fish fats are in cold water fish.
How much fat do we need?
Most adults need 15-20 percent of their total calories to come from fat.