The Fatty Food That's Great for Your Health (And Other Fun Fat Facts)
Fat is back! Non-fat, low-fat and quasi-fat products have been substituted in our food for so long, it's sometimes hard to remember what fat actually tastes like. Studies have shown that eating fat does not in fact, make a person fat. In her 2014 book The Big Fat Surprise: Why Butter, Meat and Cheese belong in a Healthy Diet, journalist Nina Teicholz argues that carbohydrates and sugar are the most dangerous ingredients in the modern American diet, causing obesity.
Think you're a fat expert? Here are five things you should know about fat.
1. There are four different types of fat: monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, trans fat and saturated fat. Some of these fats are important to your diet, while others should be restricted.
2. Guacamole can make you healthier. New research shows that a diet moderate in fat that includes eating avocadoes daily, which contain monounsaturated fat, can lead to significant health benefits. In a study at Pennsylvania State University, researchers found that eating an avocado daily improved the ratios of good cholesterol to bad cholesterol. "The results of this study suggest that the monounsaturated fat, fiber, phytosterols and other dietary bioactives in avocados may provide greater benefits to cardiovascular disease risk factors compared to a calorie matched low fat diet," said Penny Kris-Etherton, lead author of the study.
3. The fats found in the Mediterreanean diet are good for you. Polyunsaturated fats, many of which contain omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, can also help lower blood pressure and reduce cardiovascular disease. You'll find these fats in fish like salmon, trout and herring, nuts like walnuts, almonds and sunflower seeds, and cooking oils including soybean and corn.
4. Trans fats aren't only in processed foods. Trans fats, the oils found on top of other fats (such as butter), are unhealthy, and while naturally occuring, they are especially dangerous when added to packaged foods to make them more enjoyable. To reduce risk of heart disease, aim for zero trans fats. The Mayo Clinic reports that foods with .5 grams of trans fat can be labeled as 0 trans fat on food packaging. Be wary of ingredients like partially hydrogenated vegetable oil adding up to a whole lot of trans fat in each bite of processed cookie.
5. While high in saturated fat, coconut is actually very healthy. Saturated fat is generally frowned upon as one of the bad fats; found in animal products like meat and dairy as well as fried foods, it's the stuff that's known to clog arteries. In coconuts, however, 50% of its saturated fat content is lauric acid according to Men's Health. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reports that even though lauric acid raises LDL (bad) cholesterol, it boosts HDL (good) cholesterol even more. Go for that healthy piÃ±a colada.
In conclusion, the American Heart Association knows how much fat you should eat. Check out its Heart Calculator at Heart.org to break down the total fats, saturated fats, trans fats and cholesterol okay for your diet.