Healthy Fats: Friends or Foes?
Many patients have expressed worry about eating foods like raw nuts or avocados because they are “high in fat” or “high in calories.” While it’s important to be mindful about calorie intake and portion sizes (especially if you are trying to lose weight), think about what you’re “spending” your calories on.
For about half a century, Americans were told to avoid all fats because they contributed to disease. This resulted in a low-fat, high carb movement that lasted for decades. Though it was well-intentioned, the science behind this claim was unsubstantiated. Still today, the public continues to be misled to avoid fats of all types. Recent studies have shown that the type of fat matters and that healthy fats are vital to our physiology. They are required for optimal body function and influence proper cell membrane structure, brain function, cholesterol balance, skin health and are protective against chronic diseases.
There are three main types of fats: saturated, polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats.
-Saturated fats are mostly found from animal sources such as meat, cheese and butter. The best source for saturated fats are from organically raised, grass-fed animals.
-Polyunsaturated fats include omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids and these are mainly found in plants sources and seafood. Omega-3 and omega-6 fats are Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs), meaning they cannot be synthesized in the body and need to come from the diet.
-Monounsaturated fatty acids are found in olive oil, nuts and avocados. Poly- and monounsaturated fatty acids are heart protective, help with mood and cognition, can help decrease high cholesterol levels, promote weight loss, and have many other benefits.
There is now technically a ‘new’ category of fats called “trans fats.” Trans fats are artificially created for processed food products like margarine. They are a byproduct of hydrogenating oils (a chemical process that makes oils solid at room temperature). According to the American Heart Association, trans fats can increase LDL cholesterol levels, and increase risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. Naturopathic doctors have an extensive background in nutrition. To learn more about healthy diet choices, schedule an appointment at Arizona Natural Medicine.