Dietary Fats: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Dietary Fats: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

This is a controversial statement, but it shouldn't be: if you want to lose weight or get healthier, you probably need to eat more dietary fats. Dieters tend to avoid fats because they are so calorie dense. One gram of fat contains nine calories while one gram of protein or carbohydrate only contains four. Since weight loss requires a caloric deficit, those pursuing weight loss reason that they need to avoid fats. Though this argument seems convincing, it's actually dead wrong.

Over the past few years, you may have heard the term "healthy fats" more and more. This implies that people generally think of fats as unhealthy, but that there are a select group of fats that are healthy. Instead, we should think about fats the same way we think about protein and carbs: some are good and some are bad; sometimes we should eat them and sometimes we shouldn't. Making blanket statements is easy, but doesn't yield great results.

The Benefits of Fats

The benefits of fats are now well-established, thanks to a growing body of scientific literature. Here are a few reasons not to abandon all fats:

  • Fat is a dietary component that is vital to human growth and development. For as long as humans have been around, fats have been a major part of our diet.
  • Many vitamins are fat-soluble, which means that eating more fats will help you absorb more vitamins.
  • Monounsaturated fats (found in olive, peanuts, and avocados) can reduce cholesterol levels and lower your risk of heart disease and stroke.
  • Fats are often very filling, so including them in your diet will not increase your caloric intake. In fact, carbs are most often responsible for a caloric surplus.

Good Fats and Bad Fats

I like to use the Mediterranean diet, widely considered a solid diet, as a way to distinguish between good and bad fats. The Mediterranean diet recommends eating lean meats, nuts, oils, and fruits and vegetables. How does the diet cut out bad fats while keeping to good ones? Simple. It avoids fats from animal sources - fatty meats and dairy - and emphasizes natural fats from nuts and oils. (Although avocados aren't a staple of the Mediterranean diet, I highly recommend them as well.)

When constructing your next diet plan, whether your goal is improved health, weight loss, or increasing strength, be sure to include healthy fats from natural sources like nuts, oils, and avocados and avoid the fats found in beef, meat, and other animal products.

Here's a great salad recipe that includes walnuts, a great source of fats:

Healthy Waldorf Salad

Healthy Waldorf Salad

  • 3 celery stalks
  • 2 scallions
  • 1 apple
  • Handful of toasted walnuts, chopped
  • Handful dried cranberries

See full recipe here.

CATEGORIES: Alternative Health, Healthy Foods, Healthy Fats , Top Diet Plans , Weight Loss