The Good, The Bad, The Fats: How Fat is Part of a Healthy Diet

Many of us have tried a low-fat diet at some point in our lives, but is it healthy for you? The answer is simply, No. Eating fat does not make you fat, just like eating green vegetables will not make you green. In fact, healthy fats are a critical part of your diet.

Fats play numerous roles in the body, including:

  • Providing a source of energy
  • Acting as building blocks for cell membranes and hormones, especially sex hormones (testosterone, estrogen, and progesterone)
  • Aiding the absorption of the fat-soluble vitamins: A, D, E, and K
  • Allowing for the proper use of proteins
  • Serving as a protective lining for the organs of the body, especially your gut lining
  • Helping regulate energy absorption by slowing the absorption of food
  • Increasing satiety (feeling full after eating)
  • Making food taste good

How low-fat diets cause harm

  • Causes gut issues; increased permeability allowing proteins to leak through the gut barrier
  • Gallbladder issues. Your gallbladder is responsible for releasing bile, which emulsifies the fat. If you’re not eating enough fat, the bile can crystalize leading to gallstones, which may lead to gallbladder removal. This is due to the lack of eating fats.
  • Fat is replaced with sugar and processed carbs
  • Inability to absorb fat soluble vitamins critical (A,D,E,K) for function
  • Hormonal issues- you need fat to build steroid hormones
  • Increased inflammation due to prostaglandin (hormone-like substances that regulate inflammation) dysfunction

Good Fats vs. Bad Fats (general guidelines)

Around 30% of your diet: Saturated Fat (most stable fats) Sources:

  • Red meat
  • Coconut Oil
  • Ghee
  • Butter
  • Dairy

Around 60% of your diet: Monunsaturated Fat (less stable with one double bond) Sources:

  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Almonds
  • Macadamia Nuts
  • Avocado
  • Olives

Around 10% of your diet: Polyunsaturated (least stable with 2 or more double bonds) Sources:

(Aim for 1:1 ratio of Omega 3: Omega 6)

  • Fish Oil (Omega 3)
  • Flax Seeds (Omega 3)
  • Chia Seeds (Omega 3)
  • Walnuts
  • Pecans
  • Butternut
  • Sesame Seeds

Stay away from the adulterated polyunsaturated fats. These are highly processed, highly heated, have chemicals and are deodorized—which can cause havoc in the body. Bad fats to avoid:

  • Partially hydrogenated/ hydrogenated oils found in
    • Fast food
    • Fried fats
    • Packaged/processed fats
  • Vegetable oils such as canola, safflower, sunflower, corn, peanut, grapeseed and soybean oil

If you are interested in working with a nutritionist, please contact Mai Wagner, Functional Nutritional Therapy Practitioner at mwagner@paloaltojcc.org. You can learn more about the Functional Nutritional Therapy offerings here.

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Mai Wagner

Written by Mai Wagner

Mai holds a Bachelors of Science degree in Kinesiology from Indiana University and a Master's Degree in Clinical Exercise Physiology from University of Florida. She also served as a former fitness manager for the last 16 years in the Bay Area and as a regional fitness director at the Bay Clubs and most recently, at EXOS. Her passion for nutrition and lifestyle medicine led her to complete a nine-month Functional Nutritional Therapy Practitioner program in June 2020 and become a Wellcoaches Health & Wellness | Lifestyle Medicine coach in June 2021. Mai is excited to share her passion for nutrition and health coaching with the wonderful members at the Oshman Family JCC!

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