Eat a low-fat diet and you’ll lose weight because fat equals excess weight. Isn’t that what we’ve always been told? It turns out things aren’t quite that simple. In fact, fat is not your enemy as you have been led to believe by Big Food and many experts in the mainstream medical industry. Without fat, our bodies would cease to function and we would cease to live; fat is that vital to our health.
People who eat a diet rich in the wrong types of fat and people eat too much fat are at a much higher risk for an abundance of health problems. But people who understand that eating enough of the right kinds of fat is crucial to a happy, healthy mind and body are well on their way to keeping their weight in check as well as guarding their system from disease.
Fat continues to intrigue scientists as we discover more about the ways our bodies utilize and metabolize it. “Fat is one of the most fascinating organs out there,” says Aaron Cypess, MD, PhD, an instructor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and a research associate at the Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston. “We are only now beginning to understand fat.” “Fat has more functions in the body than we thought,” agrees Rachel Whitmer, PhD, research scientist at the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research in Oakland, Calif., who has studied the links between fat and brain health.
It is important to understand that not all fats are created equal. “Choosing the right types of dietary fats to consume is one of the most important factors in reducing the risk of developing heart disease,” says researcher Alice Lichtenstein of Tufts University. So which are the “good” fats and which are the “bad”? And where can you get them? Healthy fats are the kind your body wants and needs to maintain proper vital functions and produce energy.
These are your polyunsaturated fats, monounsaturated fats, and plant-based saturated fats such as unrefined coconut oil. The most popular and well-known of these healthy fats are the omega-3s. As you may have heard, omega-3 fats can be found in fish like salmon and tuna. But if you eat a plant-based diet, you will want to turn to seeds, nuts, avocados, olives and the unrefined oils of all the above. It is important to note that you should always get your healthy fats like omega-3s from food sources, not from supplements.
This is because the omega-3 fatty acid chains found in their natural forms are absorbed by your body much more efficiently and properly than those you will find in manufactured supplement pills. “Except for people with established heart disease, there is no data to suggest omega-3 supplements will decrease heart disease risk,” says Lichtenstein.
The bad fats you want to avoid are the saturated fats found in meat and dairy and trans fats, which can be found in most processed food products. Eating even a little of these types of fats can increase free radicals in your body and lead to obesity and a greater risk of heart disease, diabetes and cancer. “Trans fats are worse than any other fat, including butter or lard,” says Michael Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a nonprofit advocacy group.
Remember, fat should not be feared; it is an important part of your diet. But avoiding the wrong kinds of fat and keeping the amount of fat you consume per day within the correct limits is equally important to your wellbeing. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s 2005 Dietary Guidelines recommend that adults get 20%-35% of their calories from fats. At a minimum, we need at least 10% of our calories to come from fat. Looking for ways to decrease your intake of unhealthy fats and increase your intake of the good ones? Learn more about our low-fat meal delivery program and customizable plan options.
Eating a vegan diet rich in omega-3s and free of refined fats and sugars can significantly improve your health and help you manage your weight. Check out how Fresh N Lean can help make your life easier and your health better with our low-fat vegan meal delivery service. Our low-fat meal plans are made of delicious meals naturally low in unhealthy fats and containing the perfect balance of healthy ones so you can lose weight and increase your energy.