Do you remember when so-called medical experts were pointing at the saturated fat in eggs as one reason behind weight gain and heart problems? How about when they retracted that statement? Out of the three macronutrients, fat has gotten the worst publicity as it’s been the subject of ridicule for years.
The most calorically-dense macronutrient at 9 calories per gram, dietary fat was once deemed the primary cause for weight gain. While this might be true for the trans-fat that is found in processed foods, other types of fat including monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are a necessary part of your diet.
Let’s debunk the most common myths about dietary fat and reveal what the real threat to your waistline.
DOES SATURATED FAT CAUSE HEART DISEASE?
Despite numerous scientific studies, the myth that saturated fat causes heart disease just won’t seem to go away.
Saturated fats are primarily found within animal products such as steak, chicken, pork, milk, and eggs. You can also find it in plant-based sources such as avocados and coconut oil. Saturated fat has been proven in several studies NOT to be a direct cause of heart disease.
In fact, saturated fat is considered an essential macronutrient playing a variety of important roles that benefit your overall health. Vital organs such as the liver, brain, and lungs require saturated fat for optimal functioning. (1)
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IS DIETARY CHOLESTEROL BAD FOR YOU?
Another myth that won’t die: Cholesterol has long been said to negatively impact your health. This goes hand in hand with the claims against dietary fat. From this, trendy diet plans formed with a focus on cutting out all fat and cholesterol along with it.
Like the right sources of dietary fats, cholesterol contributes to a number of bodily processes including hormone and vitamin D production, liver support, and brain health. With that said, the focus should be on ingesting a limited supply of daily cholesterol from the right sources, which we’ll discuss below.
CHOOSE HEALTHY FATS FOR YOUR DIET
Your goal should be to select the right types of fat for your diet, and not eliminate it altogether. Here are three types of fat you should eat:
Monounsaturated Fat: Studies have shown the benefits of the moderate consumption of monounsaturated fats to include reduced risk of heart disease and cardiovascular disease, improved weight loss, and improved cellular maintenance. The best sources of monounsaturated fats include avocadoes, olive oil, pecans, almonds, and cashews. (2)
Polyunsaturated Fats: When eaten in moderation, polyunsaturated fats have been shown to host a number of benefits including improved uptake and absorption of other vitamins, reduced blood pressure, and those mentioned above associated with monounsaturated fats. The best sources of polyunsaturated fats include oils such as sunflower, flaxseed, sesame, and safflower. You can also find polyunsaturated fats in walnuts and salmon. (2)
Saturated Fats: A moderate supply of saturated fats provide you with a number of benefits as mentioned above and it’s important to have a well-rounded intake of fat. When choosing foods for saturated fat content, grass-fed beef, wild salmon, eggs, and coconut oil are perfect dietary choices. (2)
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WHAT IS CAUSING WEIGHT GAIN?
Sugar is finally getting the bad press it is due, and it’s being labeled as one of the primary causes for weight gain and cardiovascular disease.
Sugar can be found in almost every processed food product in your local market. Even dried fruits contain sugar. In its raw form, sugar is an important form of glucose, which provides energy for the body. With that said, you won’t find raw sugar in processed foods and drinks. Instead, there are refined sugars, which have been linked to cardiovascular disease, heart disease, and cognitive decline. (3, 4, 5)
The best way to avoid weight gain is to begin cutting sugar from your diet. Here are some helpful ways to do that:
LIMIT LIQUID-BASED CALORIES
Did you know that one can or bottle of soda from a popular brand may have between 40 and 50 grams of sugar? The easiest way to start removing sugar from your diet is to limit or get rid of soda and sugar-based drinks.
Going cold turkey isn’t easy. If you want to wean yourself from a soda addiction, start by choosing the no-sugar alternatives such as sucralose. Incorporate more water into your diet, drinking eight glasses of water per day. Eventually completely replace soda with sugar-free tea or coffee.
GO NATURAL; AVOID PROCESSED
Processed foods are another leading source of sugar. From microwave dinners to snacks to supposed health foods, if it comes in a box, there’s a good chance it has plenty of sugar.
Choose whole food-based options when shopping. You can even select frozen over canned or boxed. Eating a diet that is rich in fresh fruits and vegetables can have a positive impact on your health. While there is sugar in fresh fruit, this is natural sugar accompanied by fiber and micronutrients.
One of the greatest weapons you can arm yourself with is knowledge. Learn to read your nutrition labels and put this into practice before making a purchase.
If you are going to buy a processed good, take a look at what the sugar content is. You can also search for the type of sugar that’s being added in the ingredients section. If it says Fructose or High Fructose Corn Syrup on the label, put it back. If you see Coconut Sugar or Lo Han Guo, that is going to be one of your better options.
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WHAT MYTH ABOUT FAT DID YOU BELIEVE?
Did you think that eating fat made you fat? Do you have a favorite source of healthy fats? Or maybe a recipe for the perfect healthy fat meal? Share it with us on our Facebook.
- Patty W Siri-Tarino, Qi Sun, Frank B Hu, and Ronald M Krauss. Meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies evaluating the association of saturated fat with cardiovascular disease. Am J Clin Nutr. January 13, 2010, doi: 10.3945/ajcn.2009.27725.
- American Heart Association. Fats and Oils. March 25,2016. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/HealthyLiving/HealthyEating/Nutrition/Fats-and-Oils_UCM_304495_Article.jsp#.VvuWauJ95dg. Web.
- Yang Q, Zhang Z, Gregg EW, Flanders WD, Merritt R, Hu FB. Added sugar intake and cardiovascular diseases mortality among US adults. JAMA Intern Med. 2014 Apr;174(4):516-24. doi: 10.1001/jamainternmed.2013.13563.
- American Heart Association. Added Sugars Add to Your Risk of Dying from Heart Disease. December 2,2014. heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/NutritionCenter/HealthyEating/Added-Sugars-Add-to-Your-Risk-of-Dying-from-Heart-Disease_UCM_460319_Article.jsp. Web.
- Barnes, J. N. and Joyner, M. J. (2012), Sugar highs and lows: the impact of diet on cognitive function. The Journal of Physiology, 590: 2831. doi: 10.1113/jphysiol.2012.234328.