The Skinny on Fat: Why Your Body Needs It, Fats to Avoid and How to Choose Healthy Fats

Healthy Fat - Skinless Chicken Breast

Skip the fried and go for skinless

Despite what we’ve all been told, fat is not always the bad guy when it comes to weight loss and eating healthy. The USDA recommends that 20-35% of your total daily calories come from fat. Sounds like weight gain and a boatload of health issues waiting to happen right? In actuality, your body needs fat to support many of its basic functions like providing energy and dissolving vitamins to nourish your body. But not all fats are equal. There’s a difference between healthy and unhealthy fats and for those of us who are trying to maintain a healthy diet while losing weight, it’s always best to opt for healthy fats.

Healthy vs. Unhealthy Fats: Who are the Players?

The two main types of unhealthy fats are saturated fat and trans fat. These bad fats increase our risk of heart disease, high cholesterol and Type 2 Diabetes. They also tend to be solid at room temperature.

  • Saturated fats mainly come from high-fat cuts of meat like beef, lamb or pork, chicken with the skin and whole-fat dairy products.
  • Trans fats are often found in processed foods such as muffins, cupcakes, potato chips as well as fried foods like French fries and breaded fish or chicken.

Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are known as the healthy fats because they can lower our risk of heart disease and Type 2 Diabetes, and improve blood cholesterol levels. These fats tend to be liquid at room temperature.

  • Monounsaturated fats are found in oils (olive, canola, sunflower, peanut, sesame), avocados, olives and nuts such as almonds, peanuts, pecans, and cashews.
  • Polyunsaturated fats are also found in oils (soybean, corn, safflower), walnuts, seeds (sunflower, sesame, pumpkin and flaxseed), fatty fish and soymilk

Avoid “Low-Fat” and “Fat-Free” Labels

I know it’s tempting to reach for those “low-fat” foods like baked potato chips, fat-free ice cream, low-fat cookies, etc. when walking down the grocery aisle because we think it’s healthier than the alternative. In reality, just the opposite is true. A “fat-free” or “low-fat” label doesn’t necessarily mean it’s healthy. Many fat-free foods are high in sugar, refined carbohydrates and calories. I’ve learned to steer clear of misleading labels and instead, pay more attention to the type of fat I’m eating.

Strategies for Eating Healthy Fats

Now that we know certain types of fat are actually good for you and your weight loss efforts, I wanted to share with you some of the strategies I use to help make sure I’m including healthy fats in my diet.

  • Bake a large piece of salmon every week and eat half of it for dinner and save the other half to top my salad at lunch
  • Grab a handful of nuts for a quick, delicious, and filling snack
  • Add crunch to my salads by adding sunflower seeds instead of bacon bits and croutons
  • Use cooking sprays made with olive or canola oil
  • Opting for a square of rich, dark chocolate to indulge my sweet tooth instead of reaching for store-bought muffins or cakes.

Bottom line: don’t go fat-free, instead go for healthy fats. What are some strategies you’ve used to cut unhealthy fats and add healthy fats to your diet? I welcome your suggestions!

-Joy


Zestar co-founder and dedicated Zestar app user Joy Solomon was inspired by her weight loss struggles with diet after diet that did not bring results. Guided by her scientific education and extensive medical and health information background (including CEO of IVI Publishing, the creator of the highly acclaimed Mayo Clinic health information website), Joy delved into the science of weight loss to bring Zestar to life. Join her on her weight loss journey as she blogs about tips and insights that can help you be successful on your weight loss journey too. Read Joy's full bio.

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