We’ve come a long way since those days. But there is still some confusion about which fats are healthy for us, how much fat we should eat when trying to lose weight, and some other concerns. Read on as we debunk some myths about fat and guide you toward healthy choices!
Fat itself does not make you gain weight. If you eat more calories than you burn - whether those calories come from fat, carbohydrate, or protein – you will gain weight. Fat does contain more calories per gram (9 calories/gram) compared to carbohydrate and protein (4 calories/gram each). This means in a given portion size, a food composed of mostly fat will provide more calories than a food made of carbohydrates or protein. However, it’s also important to consider that healthy fats help us feel satiated and full after meals, so you're not hungry a few hours later. It's one of the reasons (in addition to vitamin absorption and heart health) that you should consume around 20-35% of calories from healthy fats.
The bottom line? Keep healthy fats in your diet (even if you're trying to lose weight) - just make sure they are portion controlled servings and you don't eat too many servings each day.
Myth 2: All fats are bad.
This is very far from the truth – some fats are actually quite good for our bodies! Generally we can divide fat into these 3 categories:
Unsaturated fats are good for our body, and include monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Monounsaturated fats are found in foods like olive and canola oil, nuts, avocados, and pumpkin seeds. Polyunsaturated fats are found in foods like soybean and corn oil, walnuts, fish, and flax seeds. Omega-3 fatty acids are one type of especially healthy polyunsaturated fat. Research shows that when people replace some refined carbohydrates and/or saturated fats with healthy unsaturated fats, it helps decrease LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and may increase HDL (“good”) cholesterol.
Saturated fats come mainly from meats, chicken and turkey with skin, and dairy products. It’s also found in coconut oil and palm oil. Saturated fats raise HDL (“good”) cholesterol but also raise LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, so it’s better to get our fats from unsaturated sources. That being said, there’s new research coming out that certain types of saturated fat may not be as harmful towards heart health as we initially thought (namely lauric acid, found in coconut oil). I’m not convinced that the research is strong enough to switch from my standard olive oil, but if you use coconut oil, just do so in moderation (like with any oil choice).
Trans fats are created when liquid oils are heated and formed into a solid through a process called “partial hydrogenation.” This process makes the fat more stable for frying and for shelf stable convenience foods. However, the fat that is created is especially bad for us since it raises LDL cholesterol and lowers HDL cholesterol. According to the Harvard School of Public Health, for every extra 2% of calories from trans fat each day, your risk of heart disease goes up by 23%! For a 2,000 calorie diet, that's only 40 calories - or about 4 grams - from trans fat.
And here's the confusing part: manufacturers can legally say there is "0 grams" of trans fat on the label if there is less than 0.5 grams per serving. If you use multiple products each day like this, or multiple servings of one product, you could easily take in several grams of trans fat.
How do you get around this trick? Check the ingredients. If the ingredients list "partially hydrogenated oils" then the product does contain trans fats.
Myth 3: Replacing saturated fat with carbohydrates is good for your health.
Newer research shows that when people replace saturated fat with refined carbohydrates, there is actually a greater risk of cardiovascular disease compared to those who ate the saturated fat! Replacing saturated fats with unsaturated fats is a better strategy. [Notice that says refined carbohydrates – this doesn’t apply to our healthy sources like vegetables, fruits, and whole grains.]
Share with us: Do you have any favorite healthy fats that keep you full and satisfied? [My favorite is avocado!]