The truth about fat: the good and the bad

By Betty Murray

Fat is unhealthy. It leads to weight gain, heart problems and numerous other health conditions. Right?

Not necessarily.

For years, our culture has promoted one “low-fat” diet after another, but those diets aren’t doing anyone much good. Your body needs some fat, “good” fat. Fat is a source of energy and it helps the body absorb essential vitamins and nutrients. It is also important for blood clotting and muscle function.

There are some fats that are unhealthy, often labeled “bad” fat. Saturated fats and trans fat fall into the bad fat category. It is these types of fat that lead to weight gain, heart disease and high cholesterol.

Oh the other hand, good fats, such as polyunsaturated fats and monounsaturated fats help lower bad cholesterol (LDL) and can prevent heart disease.

How can you tell the difference?

Trans fats occur naturally in meat, but is also manufactured and found in packaged foods like potato chips, cookies, crackers and even some dairy products. Check the labels on food products before you buy to ensure you are not consuming food containing trans fats.

Saturated fats can be found in butter, whole milk, cheeses and dairy products, beef and some cooking oils like vegetable oil. Some types of saturated fats (there are about 24 different types), such as stearic acid found in pure chocolate can actually help lower bad cholesterol.

There are two types of polyunsaturated fats: omega-3 fatty acids and omega-6 fatty acids. Both are known to lower risk of heart disease and can protect against other serious health problems. Omega-3 fatty acids are found primarily in fish (salmon, mackerel and sardines are all excellent sources of omega-3s), but are also contained in flaxseeds, walnuts and canola oil. Omega-6 fatty acids can be found in oils such as soybean oil, sunflower oil, walnut and corn oil.

Monounsaturated fats are found in olive oil, peanut oil, canola oil, most types of nuts and avocados.

Cutting out all sources of fat in your diet is not the answer for a healthy heart and thin waistline. Instead, replace saturated fats and trans fats in your diet with polyunsaturated fats and monounsaturated fats. Eating a natural, organic diet is one of the best ways to ensure you aren’t consuming saturated fats or trans fats. You should also steer clear of “low-fat” or “reduced fat” food options. Often times these foods contain other unhealthy ingredients used to supplement for flavor when the fat is removed.

When in doubt, always read the nutrition label to find out what types of fat your food contains.

Betty Murray, CN, HHC, RYT is a Certified Nutritionist & Holistic Health Counselor, founder of the Dallas-based integrative medical center, Wellness and founder of the Metabolic Blueprint wellness program. Betty’s nutrition counseling practice specializes in metabolic and digestive disorders and weight loss resistance. A master of the biochemistry of the body, Betty teaches her clients how to utilize nutritional interventions to improve their health. Betty is a member of the Institute of Functional Medicine and the National Association of Nutrition Professionals.

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