In the past, the health and wellness industry has advocated a low-fat diet, arguing that fats are harmful to our health and well-being. In the last few years, many nutritionists and health experts have begun changing their tune, claiming that fats can be a healthy part of our diet.
The conflicting information about fats is confusing and can make the process of deciding whether or not to include fats overwhelming. We’re here to break it down and help you figure out once and for all whether you should be stocking up on low-fat foods or not.
Can Fats Be a Part of a Healthy Diet?
Before we can discuss whether fats can be a healthy part of your diet, we must distinguish which fats we’re talking about. Many in the health industry talk about fats like they are all the same, but they’re not. Even among the different groups of fat — saturated, unsaturated, polyunsaturated — there are differences in fat and the effects it has on the body.
In the past, scientists found that a high-cholesterol diet had a negative effect on the body, promoting a condition called atherosclerosis, which is a build-up of plaque in the arteries. This, in turn, increased the risk of cardiovascular disease and fueled the argument that fat in the diet is bad.
However, further studies have shown that dietary cholesterol actually has minimal impact in most individuals’ cholesterol levels. Moreover, some fats can even reduce cholesterol levels in the body.
Take an avocado, for instance. An avocado has the same amount of fat as three slices of bacon. The bacon will increase the “bad” cholesterol in the body (LDL cholesterol), while the avocado can actually decrease the bad cholesterol.
Analysis of these facts seems to stipulate that fats can be a healthy part of the diet, it just depends on what the source of fat is, as not all fats are created equal.
Healthy Fats You Can Eat
One of the reasons that fats got such a bad rap was because the studies that focused on people consuming saturated fats — one of the fats experts tend to debate most over — didn’t account for the fact that these individuals were often consuming unhealthy diets in other regards, as well.
Scientists are now recognizing that there are other factors that could have affected the results of these studies, such as unhealthy weight gain and consumption of processed foods. These factors could have been just as likely to have contributed to the health problems that were once attributed solely to fats.
Newer studies have found that when fats from healthy food sources are consumed in moderation and do not cause weight gain, fat in the diet can actually be a part of a healthy diet. Some foods that offer healthy sources of fat include:
- Dark chocolate
- Chia seeds
- Olive oil
- Full-fat dairy products like yogurt and cheese
These foods contain a mix of saturated and unsaturated fats. Some of these foods, like dairy products, contain trace amounts of trans fat, however, this trans fat is not the same as the industrial trans fat found in processed snacks and desserts, which is detrimental to your health.
Skipping Low-Fat Foods
While a diet rich in fat is not necessarily the best approach to take in regards to maintaining a healthy diet, neither is a diet focused on low-fat foods. Low-fat foods tend to be a result of food scientists removing fat from the food and replacing it with sugar. The increase in sugar in your diet can contribute to diseases like obesity and diabetes.
Instead, you should focus on eating a moderate amount of fat in your diet through some of the healthy food sources shared above. You’ll want to aim for roughly 30% of your diet to be made up of fat from natural, healthy food sources. As a bonus, by skipping low-fat foods and consuming the real deal, you’ll probably notice yourself feeling full for longer periods of time and feeling more energized than you have in awhile.