From obesity to heart related diseases, fats have been misjudged and often generally accused of a host of diet-related diseases. But do you know that some specific types of fats are healthy and significantly decrease your risk of heart diseases, help with weight loss and at the same time, and help reduce the threat of Type 2 diabetes? This post – if well digested and read to the end – will be a great tool which will help you ;
- change your perspective about fats,
- distinguish between the good guys and the really bad guys – good fats and bad fats, respectively,
- know the ideal natural food sources of healthy fats,
- add more healthy fats to your Keto and Paleo diets.
Fats are Healthy?
If 10 people were randomly asked this question – which is arguably the same/a part of the questions that brought you to this post – the chances are 8 will ignorantly reply that “ fats are not a good option in diets, in fact if possible, they should be avoided”. This is absolutely not true! Fats are an essential part of our diets and health, but the essentiality is optimized when this dietary nutrient is well understood, well selected, and not excessively consumed.
Through this post, we at Parallelo Health aim to help you understand and select the right types and sources of fats to be included in your diets to ensure your desired results.
Good Fats vs Bad Fats
Not all fats were created equal. Generally, there are two major categories of dietary fats which are often encountered in the foods we eat – Saturated and Unsaturated. The most conspicuous difference between these two is that : Saturated fats (attention: these are not all bad) and trans-fat (the really bad guys) are solids at room temperature due to an abundance of hydrogen atoms on their carbon chain while unsaturated fats (mostly the good guys) are liquids at room temperature due to fewer hydrogen atoms in their chains.
Let’s begin with the good fats. It is important to know that even within this category, there are differences.
Unsaturated fats are often regarded as good fats because they can amazingly benefit the heart and also help prevent diabetes. There are two types of unsaturated fats; Monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats.
Monounsaturated fats have been shown to help control insulin levels as well as the blood sugar levels. They help prevent heart diseases and are also very important in lowering your blood Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL or ‘bad’ cholesterol) levels. Also they significantly increase High Density Lipoprotein (HDL or ‘good’ cholesterol).
Polyunsaturated fats are also essential for regular body functions which include efficient blood clotting, building up/ construction of cell membranes, covering/ insulation of nerves – to aid nervous functions – and so on. The two major types of polyunsaturated fats are the omega-3 and the omega-6 fatty acids. Both are important and essential for body functions, with particular emphasis on omega-3 fatty acids.
Omega-3 fatty acids help reduce triglycerides in the blood and also help to lower your blood pressure. A very crucial step to take is to consciously replace bad fats with good fats in diets. The type of fat consumed rather than the quantity, often proves to be the largest influence on your cholesterol levels. A diet rich in omega-6 fatty acids have been shown to antagonize your cholesterol certainly in a negative way and things like vegetable oil, corn oil, canola oil, safflower oil, and soya oil should be avoided like the plague as they are considered to be LDL and as such, they are excessively high in omega-6 fatty acids.
While monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are encouraged to be included in diets, some saturated fats are not too good and should be avoided to some extent or consumed only sparingly. This type of fat is commonly advised by nutritionists to be taken somewhere below 10% of daily dietary calories.
This is because; a diet which has an abundance of saturated fats (above 10% calories a day) usually cause a shift in balance towards increasing the LDL and total cholesterol levels in the blood. Yoghurt, cheese, palm oil, coconut oil, ghee, Lard, fatty and processed meat, red meat, whole milk, eggs etc. are all common sources of saturated fats. For all you Keto folks out there, as your diets’ calories derived from fat sources can range from 60-75% , it is important to also see the benefit of saturated fats. As even discussed on Joe Rogan’s podcast, with some of the top scientists and nutritionists known worldwide, it is not necessary to “run away” from ALL saturated fats, in fact, recent studies have now been published determining that animal-derived fats are actually beneficial and in a ketogenic perspective, we have seen even a reduction of plaques and coronary artery blockages. Do your research to find more!
Trans-fat – a really bad fat – are produced from the hydrogenation of healthy fats and oils to prevent rancidity. They tend to behave like saturated vegetable oils by increasing the blood levels of LDL, but also reduces the blood level of HDL thus leading to various harmful effects on the body. According to Harvard University, trans fats have no known health benefits and no established ‘safe’ level of consumption!
Thus, Trans fats are usually advised to be kept at a minimum or if possible, not to be taken at all. Common sources of Trans fats are Margarine, french fries, doughnuts, cakes, cookies, chips, pastries etc. Unsurprisingly, this type of fats tend to be the most available and most enticing, but you should try your best to avoid them in order to encourage a more healthy lifestyle.
Sources of healthy fats
Unsaturated fats, both monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are predominantly found in plants – seeds (i.e. hemp oil), olive oils, and nuts. Some excellent animal sources of omega-3 fatty acid (polyunsaturated fats) is fish, or grass-fed beef/butter, or free-range eggs – when it’s taken a couple of times per week.
Nuts are remarkably high in both types of Unsaturated fatty acids. Though in some certain types of nuts, like walnuts, higher level of polyunsaturated fats are gotten. Hazelnuts, pistachios,pecans and almonds also contain significantly high levels of Monounsaturated fats.
It’s no secret that one of our favorite foods is avocado and avocado oil. Aside being so delicious, they are replete with Monounsaturated fats.
- Olive, Canola and Peanut oils
These oils are very safe and are encouraged to be included in cooking, also preferably added to dips and dressings. They also contain a high concentration of Monounsaturated fats.
Fatty fish like herring, salmon, tuna are amazingly high in omega-3 fatty acids which is very important for an healthy heart. However, avoid trying as this might introduce the ‘bad guys’ into your healthy meal. Poaching, grilling or baking are all good to go.
Animals that are eating food rich in omega-6 fatty acids, usually contain a higher proportions of these HDL’s in their tissues, this becoming a good source for you too! Don’t run from butter or beef from responsibly raised farms! Pay attention Keto and Paleo people – you can read more below!
Seeds like sesame seed and pumpkin are great options and sources of highly concentrated healthy fats. On the other hand, hemp seed, flax seed, and chia seed are good sources of polyunsaturated fats.
Fats in my Keto and Paleo diet?
Diet broadly refers to the sum of food consumed by a person. But this word often implies the selective and specific intake of nutrition aimed at improving health or management of weight. The chances are, you’ve heard some people say “I am going on a diet”, this sentence most commonly refers to a changing of the subject’s dietary intake to reduce – or sometimes increase – the level of fat stored by the body.
Ketogenic diets (simply called keto diet) is basically a low Carbohydrate (simply called low-carb) and high fat diet which has been shown by different studies to help lose weight and also a dietary intervention for disease conditions such as epilepsy and diabetes. This diet effectively forces your body into Ketosis – the burning of stored fats – by extremely reducing your intake of carbohydrates and replacing with dietary fats.
Isn’t it interesting that fats, which has often be negatively viewed by many as the cause of weight gain and obesity, is used in Keto diets to get rid of excess weight? This reiterates the fact that there is more to weight gain and obesity than just Fats! Keto diets contains even up to 75% fats – typically the saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats – 20% protein, and just about 5% carbs. An interesting fact is that, if the diet plan is well adhered to, it effectively produces amazing results without hunger! Awesome, isn’t it?
Paleolithic diet (or simply called Paleo diet) is also called the Stone age diet or the Caveman diet. The primal concept of this diet is to focus on getting energy from natural, fresh foods (preferably in-season) which need to be hunted and gathered – reflecting on the diet of our ancestors who lived during the Stone age (Paleolithic era).
Thus through the Paleo diet, nutrients and energy are taken from animal and plant products that are low in carbohydrates and high in protein. Foods which include meat, fish, fruits, vegetables, seeds, eggs, etc. are taken while avoiding processed foods and grains. Adhering to a Paleo diet can also effectively help you lose weight.
How can you add more fats to your Keto and Paleo diets?
This question often pops up its ugly head at one time or the other for Keto and Paleo dieters, whether you are just starting your dieting journey or you’ve been around for a while. As earlier explained in this post, fats are essential to the body but the type of fat you add really go a long way in helping you achieve your dietary goals. Target a balance in fat sources which are high in both Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids. Select your saturated fats carefully (don’t fear them!) – and no trans-fat!
These few tips will help:
- Stick to low-carb veggies like cabbage and broccoli, or mushrooms and then add a healthy fat source like avocado oil, virgin olive oil or ghee.
- Always opt for healthy fatty food sources shopping for your groceries. Healthy options have been discussed in this post.
- Consume enough fatty cuts of red meat to help maintain your Paleo ratio.
- For Keto or Paleo dieters? Do not forget the fish source! Mackerel, Salmon, Sardines and various seafoods are particularly great.
We at Parallelo Health.com are committed to helping you stick to your preferred diets, make the right decisions, and also help you push your limits in order to achieve your desired results. Consult us Today by contacting us, or leaving a comment below.