Being the healthiest version of yourself requires you to understand and embrace fat. There are different kinds of fat, which are easily broken into the good, the bad, and the ugly. But one thing is clear: you can’t be at your healthiest if you simply avoid all fat.
The Good Fat
You’ve heard of Omega-3 fats. The diet industry and vitamin companies have made a concerted effort to make sure you know you won’t survive without their fish oil supplements and omega-3 enriched products. But if you really want to benefit from Omega-3s, you have to do it the right way: eat salmon, mackerel, and other Omega-rich fish at least three times per week. Omega-3 fats affect your heart health but also help your body to be able to absorb essential fat-soluble vitamins like Vitamin A, Vitamin D, and Vitamin K. Omega-3 fats are also what helps keep your cholesterol ratio (the truest indicator of heart attack risk) in balance.
The Bad Fat
Saturated fat, an animal-based fat found in butter, whole milk, and meat is “bad.” Your body does need a very small amount of saturated fat, but unlike the polyunsaturated vegetable-based Omega-3 fats, you definitely do not need to supplement your diet with saturated fat. Saturated fat increases your bad cholesterol and contributes to arterial plaque build up (the primary cause of stroke and heart attack, and though to contribute to Alzheimer’s risk).
The Ugly Fat
If you do nothing else to protect your health, cutting out the ugly fat – trans fat – is an absolute must. You can’t trust food labels, either. They are allowed to say there are 0 grams of trans fat if there is less than .5 grams. The only way to be sure a product is free of trans fat is to read the ingredient label. Look for hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oil; if there is any at all, do not consume the product.
Some states, like New York, have passed laws requiring restaurants to stop using trans-fat-saturated oils in their fryers, but in most states, everything you obtain from a fast food restaurant was likely cooked in trans fats. One of the easiest ways to cut trans fats out of your diet is to reduce how often you eat out. You can also switch to skim milk and products like I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter to reduce the amount of trans fats in your diet.
Not all fat is bad, but if you don’t know the good from the bad and the ugly, you’ll be at risk for high cholesterol, stroke, heart attack, heart disease, and dementia-related illnesses (not to mention obesity).
As with everything in your life, finding the right balance is key. Polyunsaturated fats, even if taken in the form of a fish oil supplement, have proven to be significant to weight loss and heart health. Add a couple of meals with salmon or switch to cooking with extra virgin olive oil instead of your typical vegetable oil and start making a difference in your fat.