People have a love/hate relationship with fat. For years we heard that fat was bad, and should be avoided at all costs. Then the latest research indicated that maybe fat wasn't as bad as originally thought, and that in healthy doses, it could actually be good for us. So what's the truth? In moderation, the right types of fat are essential to health and can help support an active lifestyle.
The Benefits of Healthy Fat
- Weight Maintenance - It seems counter-intuitive, but healthy fats can help you maintain a healthy weight. Omega-3 fatty acids help the body regulate metabolism, and supports healthy thyroid function. Fats are also filling, which helps to control your appetite.
- Support Muscle Growth - A healthy amount of healthy fats in the diet can help support the healthy muscle development that comes with regular exercise. The healthy fats aid in hormone balance and recovery from an intense effort.
- Brain Health and Mood Regulation - Our brains are made of 60% fat! In fact, according to Dr. Michael Green, a research Psychologist at Aston University, a prolonged reduced fat diet can lead to neurological disorders. The fatty acid, DHA can encourage not only a healthy brain, but also can help with mood regulation and the prevention of depression.
- Bone Health - Vitamins K and D, are involved with the body's ability to absorb calcium, and are fat soluble. This means that healthy fats are necessary to make these vitamins available for the body's use.
- Lower Risk of Cancer - The monounsaturated fats found in olive oil have been show to have a protective effect against cancer on the body. A study in 2013 found that higher intake of saturated fats was linked to a lower risk of pancreatic people in over 100,000 people.
- Heart Health - It was once thought that a high fat diet increased the risk of heart disease. We now know that while certain types of fats do contribute to high levels of bad cholesterol, and increased risk of heart disease, healthy fats can protect the heart and help to maintain healthy cholesterol levels.
- Healthy Skin and Eyes - Omega-3 fatty acids can help to maintain the hydration levels in the skin and eyes. This means healthy tear production to protect the eyes, and soft healthy skin!
Sources of Healthy Fat
- Avocado - Avocados are considered a super food, and for good reason. They contain more fat than most animal sources, so moderation is essential, but they are an excellent source of healthy fats. The main fat found in Avocados is oleic acid, which is linked to healthy cholesterol levels.
- Dark Chocolate - It's ok to treat yourself sometimes! Chocolate with at least 70% cocoa is high in the fats that protect skin and eyes, and has also shown benefits to brain health.
- Whole Eggs - We once thought that eggs contributed to high levels of unhealthy cholesterol. We now know that the cholesterol in eggs does not affect our levels. Eggs are a very concentrated source of nutrients, and their fat and protein are filling.
- Fatty Fish - Fish like Salmon is high in Omega-3 fatty acids, and contain vitamin D. If you don't like to eat fish, you can also get your daily dose from cod liver oil tablets.
- Nuts - The healthy fats in nuts help regulate weight, and they are also a good plant-based source of protein.
Are You Getting Enough Healthy Fat?
One way of finding out is keeping a food diary for a few days. Once you've recorded your diet for a few days, review it to see if your can identify sources of healthy fats. Grab a red pen, and circle sources of saturated fat, and a green one to circle sources of mono and poly unsaturated fats. Most experts agree that active individuals should get 20 to 30 percent of their daily calories from healthy fats, and no more than 10 percent of their calories from saturated fats.