Why we need (good) fat in our diet


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We often wonder when fat got such a bad rap.

Was it when those plucky British teens in the 1960s saw a picture of Twiggy for the first time? Or perhaps it was back in the 1920s when skirts and haircuts got much shorter. It’s a shame that conventional beauty standards got such an important part of the healthy diet so backwards.

Fat, as a substance in our food, is extremely important to a healthy diet. Yet we’re ripping fat-free and low-fat products off of the grocery shelves in an effort to slim down and be healthier. In fact, those products are like stealing from Peter to pay Paul — meaning, we swap out fat and calories for overly produced foods full of sugar, salt and other junk. We hate to break it to you, but if you know what you’re doing, fat can be quite healthy. Let’s take a look at the difference between good fats and bad fats.

Why we need fat

There’s no easy way to state this but cutting fat entirely out of our diets is quite silly. We quite literally cannot live without essential fatty acids (EFAs), which we must receive from food as the body doesn’t produce them. Fats provide us with nutrients for our skin, proper eye function and brain development. Plus, consuming foods that contain fat give us key vitamins — A, D, E and K. Okay, we’re glad to get that out of the way.

Good fats

So what do we mean by “good fats?" While excess body fat could put a strain on our bodies, particularly when it comes to our hearts, if we’re eating the right kinds of fats, they can be quite heart-healthy. Adults should it 20%-35% of their calories from the good such as: unsaturated fats like polyunsaturated fats in nuts, seeds and vegetable oils, which lower our cholesterol; monounsaturated fats in olive oil and avocados, which help to lower LDL (bad cholesterol) and raise HDL (good cholesterol); the omega-3 fatty acids in oily fish, walnuts and soy, which fight inflammation, help control blood clotting and lower blood pressure and triglycerides.

Bad fats

And how does that differ from “bad fats?" So while eating fat is necessary and good for us, it’s high in calories, which can add up and help us pack on the pounds. And as we stated earlier, excess weight plays a role in cardiovascular disease and type-2 diabetes. The bad for us include trans fats and saturated fats. The former come from hydrogenated oils such as butter and are found in our fast foods and potato chips and can increase LDL (bad cholesterol). The latter is found in red meats, poultry and full-fat dairy. They increase overall blood cholesterol levels and LDL.