The answer is… maybe. I know we all just got done with Thanksgiving and now we’re heading into the holidays, which usually means diet doom. It doesn’t have to though. We’ve already discussed my unhealthy love affair with food, but even I have lost weight during Christmas. When we worry about gaining weight we think about eating fat. Fat must make you fat… and it can. But it also can be a very healthy component to your diet.
So lets talk about what fat is. If you look at the nutritional value of fat it has more calories per gram than any other nutrition component. This can be bad if you have a sedentary lifestyle, but if you are an active person, a little fat will take you a long way. People who live in cold places like Alaska and Mongolia eat a very fat rich diet, but their bodies burn the energy off so they suffer no ill effects. There are also some very important nutritional benefits to fats. Some vitamins (like vitamin D) need fat to be utilized by our body. Some fats can actually increase your HDL (good cholesterol) and decrease your LDL (bad cholesterol). The big difference is the KIND of fat, not that it’s fat itself.
So lets get the naughty bits out of the way. Now, just remember kids, a little naughty is okay. Everything in moderation.
Saturated fats are found in butter, cream, the lovely marbling in your steak. These fats, if not eaten in moderation, can increase your LDL and, therefore, your cardiovascular risk. Some studies have also shown that a diet high in saturated fats can increase your risk for type 2 diabetes. Now, that being said, most of the cardiologists I’ve talked to say that they would prefer that their patients would use a little bit of butter and cream rather than using some of the manufactured fats.
Trans fats can be found in small amounts in animal fats, but it is mostly found in processed foods with processed fats. These fats are particularly harmful. Not only do they increase your LDL, but they decrease your HDL, thus increasing your cardiac risk.
Okay so lets talk about some good news and some healthy fats.
Monounsaturated fats are founds in olive oil, canola oil, nuts, and avocados. Monounsaturated fats lower blood cholesterol levels, decrease your cardiac risk factors, and can help regulate your insulin levels. This is great news if you are trying to lose weight or if you are a diabetic.
Polyunsaturated fats are fats contained in fatty fish, fish oil, walnuts, and seeds. These are the fats that include omega-3 fatty acids. They can improve blood cholesterol, decrease cardiac risk, decrease the risk for coronary artery disease, and may also help decrease the risk for coronary artery disease.
Many physicians and pharmacists are beginning to recommend plant sterols to decrease LDL cholesterols and fish oils to increase HDL cholesterols.
See folks? You NEED fats. Don’t be afraid, but also remember, it’s all about balance, watching your nutrition labels, and moderation.