If you have ever attempted a weight loss diet, you have probably tried cutting fat out of your diet. Up until recent times, fat was viewed as the enemy, and dieters would attempt to avoid it altogether. However, fat is an essential macronutrient that everybody needs in their diet. Low-fat and fat-free diets are not healthy. Read on to discover why fats are so crucial and how to choose the right ones.
What are the Different Types of Fats?
The body needs fats to assimilate fat-soluble vitamins A, E, D, and K, for proper brain function and energy production. But not all fats are good for us.
Saturated and trans fats have negative effects on health. Saturated fats are found in animal products such as dairy, eggs and meat.
Trans fats (trans-fatty acids) are formed when vegetable oils are hydrogenated. These fats are added to processed foods to prolong shelf-life. You can find them in margarine, baked goods, fast foods, and desserts.
Both saturated fats and trans fats are solid at room temperature. They have similar detrimental effects on health, such as contributing to type II diabetes, heart disease, stroke, liver dysfunction, high cholesterol, inflammation, and infertility.
Unlike saturated and trans fats, unsaturated fats are very beneficial. There are two types: monounsaturated and polyunsaturated. These fats are liquid at room temperature.
Monounsaturated fats help lower bad LDL cholesterol and maintain healthy cellular function. Polyunsaturated fats include the essential fatty acids omega 3 and 6, which the body cannot produce. These EFAs help to fight inflammation, which in turn helps prevent chronic illness and injury. They help in slowing brain and macular degeneration as we age.
Examples of Healthy Fats
Mono and polyunsaturated fats mainly come from plants rather than animal sources, with the exception of oily fish.
Monounsaturated fats are found in:
- Sesame seeds and oil
- Peanuts and peanut butter
- Olive oil
- Sunflower oil
- Safflower oil
Polyunsaturated fats are found in:
- Walnuts and oil
- Flax seeds and oil
- Sunflower seeds and oil
- Soybean oil
- Oily fish such as salmon and mackerel
Healthy Fats for Vegans
Since all of the healthy fats can be found in plant sources, it is very easy for vegans to get enough healthy fats in their diet. The only fat that is on the lower side when avoiding fish is omega 3. Although it is found in nuts and seeds such as walnuts and flax, it is in a form called ALA that is not easily assimilated by the body. Vegetarians and vegans (and those who do not eat 3-4 portions of oily fish every week) benefit from taking an omega 3 supplement that is derived from algae and lichens.