Over the years, fat has been continually demonized by the diet industry, leading to the public perception that all fats, no matter what type, should be avoided. While it’s true that consumption of saturated fats and trans fats can contribute to a variety of health problems, some fats are beneficial and even necessary for the body.
Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are found in foods like olive oil, nuts, seeds, avocado, and some sea vegetables. These fats are usually liquid at room temperature and remain more stable at high temperatures than their saturated counterparts.
Unlike saturated fats, unsaturated fats can have health benefits when consumed in moderation as part of an overall healthy diet. Monounsaturated fats have been shown to reduce LDL (or “bad”) cholesterol levels, and some polyunsaturated fats are associated with a reduced risk of heart disease. Monounsaturated fats may also contain higher levels of vitamin E than other fats.
Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs)
Essential fatty acids, especially omega-3, have recently been touted in the media as being beneficial to overall wellness. These fats can have a positive effect on everything from heart health to brain health. However, the levels of EFAs in some supplements have been artificially enhanced, resulting in an unbalanced ratio of omega-3 and omega-6. Excess consumption of these fats, especially omega-6, have been linked to health problems rather than benefits.
Ratios of omega-6 to omega-3 ranging from 1:1 to 4:1 are considered balanced and healthy. Some foods which contain EFAs at or close to these ratios include hemp seeds and hemp-derived food products, canola oil, some olive oils, and flax seeds and oil. EFAs are essential for wellbeing in that they support a variety of body systems, aid in keeping hair and skin healthy, and contribute to hormone production.
What Fat Does For the Body
Like all fats, unsaturated fats should be consumed in moderation. This means including them in the diet regardless of what popular opinion may say about fat in general. Consuming nuts, seeds, avocado, and other “high fat” foods can actually aid in achieving a healthy body.
The body uses fats in ways people don’t often think about. The brain, nerves, and body cells all have fat as part of their makeup. Fat is also essential in order to absorb fat-soluble vitamins and slow digestion to aid the body in absorbing other vital nutrients. And, of course, fat provides padding and insulation for sensitive parts of the body. Even in places like the hips and buttocks where it is generally seen as the enemy, fat acts as a protector. Fats also serve as energy reserves, giving the body something to draw on when other sources are unavailable.
When eaten along with a variety of other healthy foods, fats can have their place in a diet that promotes wellness.
Monounsaturated Dietary Fats & Oils: Sources, Diet Benefits
Healthy Dietary Fats: The Truth About Fat, Nutrition, and Cholesterol
Fats – How the Body Uses Fat
Omega-3 fatty acid
Health Benefits of Essential Fatty Acids