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Can Fats be Healthy?

If there’s one thing we all know about food and nutrition it’s this: Fat is unhealthy. Right?

olive oil

It’s not actually true.

Now, if you’re like me, ever since I can remember, I’ve been told to avoid fats. Because fat is what makes us…well, fat. But a number of recent studies have shown that not only do some fats not cause weight gain, they actually keep us healthy.

Confused?

Don’t be. It all comes down to understanding which fats are good for us, and how much of them we should consume.

Of course, those things will be different for each person, since our bodies work differently. But generally speaking, a good rule of thumb is to follow the “Mediterranean Diet”, which has been shown to help people live longer and healthier lives.

Including olive oil in your diet is a good start. You can cook with it and use it on your salads.  Fatty fish is good for you, too – trout, salmon, sardines and tuna. All those fish contain Omega-3 fatty acids, which lower triglycerides, and that’s great for heart health.  Of course, how you prepare your fish is important too.  Try recipes that include broiling, grilling or baking.

It’s also been shown that adding healthy fats to vegetables can help your body absorb vitamins and minerals. For example, add fresh olive oil to your salad, or dip some red peppers in guacamole dip.

On the flip side, fats to avoid include trans fats and saturated fats.

Trans fats are created by adding hydrogen to vegetable oil, which is known as “hydrogenation”. This is done to help keep food from spoiling, but it can raise your cholesterol. Hydrogenated fats are often found in fried foods, as well as some processed foods (check the label!). They’ve been shown to cause inflammation, and contribute to heart disease and atherosclerosis.

Saturated fats should also be consumed in limited quantities, as they’ve been linked to heart disease. These fats can be found in nuts, hard cheese, butter, and high fat cuts of meat. The current recommendation is that Americans consume less than 10% of their daily calories in saturated fats.

So, bring on the fats! Just as long as they’re the right ones…