There’s a lot of drama existing around the topic of fats and it seems like a common thing to view fats as unhealthy. Let´s dive into the topic and sort some things out.
Is there such a thing as healthy fats? YES, and some fats are even essential. Instead of banning fats, believing it’s the devil, one could try to focus on switching bad fats to healthy fats. Let’s take a closer look.
Why do I even need to consume fats?
Fat is an important source of energy which can be efficiently stored for later use. Except for being a great source of energy, fat is also protecting our inner organs. Fats are important when it comes to the production of hormones and is an essential component for building and reconstructing cells. As you may know, vitamins are divided into groups of water- and fat-soluble vitamins. In order to absorb the fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, K), found in foods, one have to consume foods rich in fat at the same time. In other words, fats play an important role in your diet and makes sure you’ll get the fat-soluble vitamins needed.
Different kinds of fatty acids
Talking about trans fats, saturated and unsaturated fats is an easy way of dividing different kinds of fatty acids into groups. They all differ when it comes to molecular structure which results in diverse qualities.
Unsaturated fatty acids
It is among the unsaturated fats we can find omega3 and omega6 fatty acids. The omega3 fatty acid ALA and the omega6 fatty acid LA are essential and we need to get them through our diet since we can’t produce them ourselves. Omega3 fatty acids are important for healthy cardiovascular function, cognitive function, fetal development, for preventing inflammation etcetera.
Trans fatty acids
Trans fatty acids are mostly found in processed foods (fried foods, cookies, candy, margarine, microwaved popcorn, frozen dinners etc…) and to some extend found naturally, for example in dairy. High intake of trans fats could increase your bad cholesterol and thus increase your risk of developing cardiovascular disease (CVD).
Saturated fatty acids
Saturated fatty acids are important to a certain extent, but in general our population is nowadays consuming way too much due to our high intake of meat and dairy products (milk, cheese, butter, crème etc) as well as highly processed foods. High intakes of saturated fats are, just like trans fats, associated to an increased risk of developing CVD. Most people would benefit and feel better from eating less products containing trans and saturated fats and instead consume more of unsaturated fats.
High quality sources of fat
So, how do I make sure to increase my intake of unsaturated fats at the same time as decreasing the intake of saturated and trans fats? Try to switch your sources of fat from dairy, meat and processed foods to the following:
Avocado – Makes an amazing addition to your meals when it comes to both flavor and nutrition. Avocado is rich in unsaturated fats, vitamins and minerals
Nuts & seeds – Good source of both unsaturated fats and healthy vitamins and minerals. For ex: walnuts, chia seeds, flax seeds, almonds, pumpkin seeds.
Salmon – A better option compared to chicken and red meat since it contains less saturated fats and more of the good stuff, unsaturated fats.
Canola oil – Is rich in omega3 and 6. Oils though, are highly processed and not considered whole foods. It perhaps shouldn’t be considered a health-food. On the other side I would still consider vegetable oils a healthier option than for example butter/margarine made from dairy. So, when cooking you could definitely use a tiny amount for the pan or as an ingredient. But I would always consider the food in its natural state, such as nuts, seeds etc., as the better option.
Remember that this is just guidelines to give you information and facts about fats. I am definitely not a nutrition police here to tell you what to do. And once again, simply view this as inspiration. Feel free to leave me questions in the comment field below, and remember; don’t be scared of fats, you could simply just try to focus on the right ones instead.
By: Nutritionist Clara Mo