Good Fat vs. Bad Fat

With all of the negative press about fatty foods, it’s easy for people to think that they need to avoid all fat. But increasingly, experts are differentiating between so-called “good” and “bad” types of fat, recognizing the importance of essential omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids found in oily fish, nuts, and coconut oil, which reduce inflammation and protect the heart from disease.

Distinguishing between these beneficial fats and the harmful trans fats found in overly processed foods is key to unlocking the power of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats abundant in olive oil, avocados, and a host of other foods.

Some of the many benefits of these good fats include increased energy levels and improved weight loss. It is estimated that between 25 and 40 percent of an adult’s energy comes from fat, and while scientific studies show that fat can double the energy content of food—leading many experts to recommend a low-fat diet to increase weight loss—it is equally important to understand that high-fat consumption does not necessarily result in weight gain. Studies do consistently show that too much saturated fat is associated with cardiovascular risk and high cholesterol levels, but there is an important difference with fats like coconut oil. Despite being categorized as a saturated fat, studies have shown that unprocessed, virgin coconut oil can actually boost metabolism and is burned easily, as energy in the body, because of its high content of medium-chain fats.

With the uptick in infertility, women should take note that a healthy body fat percentage over 18 percent is essential in order to promote ovulation and increase fertility. Studies have shown that fat promotes leptin production, which in turn helps trigger ovulation.

If you need even more incentive to incorporate more healthy fat into your diet, scientists have reported that good fat is necessary for proper absorption of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K. Experts say 30 grams of fat is needed to help vitamin absorption, and they recommend adding healthy oils to vegetables to absorb and retain nutrients.

But be on the lookout for a high accumulation of belly fat. Doctors caution that excess abdominal fat is directly linked to an increased risk of type 2 diabetes and disproportionately affects women because of higher subcutaneous fat stores that deposit fatty acids into the bloodstream, which can then settle in the liver, causing more damage.

Before you cut all the fat, remember that studies have shown a significant reduction in harmful low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) levels and an overall decline in cardiovascular disease because of the increased use of healthy oils like olive, rapeseed, soybean, and sunflower, as well as widespread campaigns against hydrogenated and fractioned oils common in overly processed foods.

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