When this word is said, many of us cringe in our seats or immediately think of donuts, cookies, and all of our other sugary guilty pleasures, as well as weight gain. It is true that there are fats in all of these snack foods. However, there are also fats in avocados, nuts, and salmon. We call these healthy fats. Don’t let the word “fat” in healthy fats scare you, though! These are completely necessary for every bodily function that we have.
For the sake of not getting too scientific in this post, we will say that there are 2 main groups of fats: saturated fats and unsaturated fats. Saturated fats are what we think of when we think of fats in food that cause heart disease. They can be found in butter, cheese, burgers, and more. They work by raising your “bad” cholesterol and triglyceride levels, among other biochemical indicators. These higher levels contribute to obesity and cardiovascular diseases. As with any food, you do not need to cut it out completely! The American Heart Association recommends that 5%-6% of our diet can consist of these saturated fats.
There are two types of unsaturated fats: monounsaturated and polyunsaturated. These fats can actually help lower cholesterol levels and help prevent heart disease. This can get a little bit confusing because this prior paragraph is explaining how saturated fats increase cholesterol! As I said earlier, foods such as avocados, nuts, and fish are full of these healthy fats. In addition to being good for our heart, these fats are needed to increase the uptake of the fat-soluble vitamins: A, D, E and K. These essential vitamins will not be absorbed without fats!
As always, it is important to make sure you are eating an overall balanced diet in order to prevent weight gain. A good guideline for monitoring this is MyPlate. There is no need to cut out fats, but instead to be more informed about the types of fats that are in foods by looking at nutrition labels on the packaging before buying it.
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Sweet Life Wellness Student Intern
Dietetics student at University of Maryland-College Park