Do Healthy Fats Exist?
By Chris Brown
Scan the aisles of any supermarket and you'll find that a heavily advertised attribute of foods is "low fat." With lowered fat being such a marketed commodity, it is easy to associate fat with unhealth. However, why are fats considered so bad? And are they as unhealthy as the food industries have led us to believe? When one considers that heart disease rates doubled during the same 40-year period (1975-2015) that fat consumption in the U.S. dropped by 10 percent, it may give pause when hating on fatty foods. Fats, it seems, may not be the dangerous element we have been taught to avoid from an early age.
Are There Such Things As Healthy Fats?
The short answer? They all are. Well, at least any naturally occurring fat is "healthy" in normal quantities. Manufactured trans fats, on the other hand, are directly related to heart attack and stroke risk. Other fats though, even the much-vilified saturated fat, have health purposes. When any natural fat is broken down in the body, it becomes an energy source called ketones. These ketones provide a more stable energy source than carbohydrate's energy-rich glucose and are particularly tasty to fatty organs like the brain. Fats also play important roles in absorbing vitamins and minerals, building cell membranes, blood clotting, muscular mobility, and reducing inflammation.
Why Do Fats Get the Bad Rap?
The demonization of fats began primarily from the famous "Seven Countries Study" in the 1970s that looked into the relationship between fat/cholesterol intake and heart problems in seven countries. After finding a correlation, the study concluded that fat was the primary dietary factor for heart disease. However, significant pieces were left out of the study including the participants' sugar intake and smoking habits. Additionally, the study failed to connect fat with other dietary combinations that could have contributed to the higher rates of disease. That spotty study alone has sadly defined the public's views on fats to this day.
The Healthy Way to Eat Fat
While fats by themselves aren't bad for you, they can have health effects when eaten in combination with large amounts of carbohydrates. The most successful diets typically either reduce fat or carbohydrate consumption. For instance, the ketogenic diet is based around the consumption of primarily fat with an extremely low amount of carbohydrates. It is considered healthier than a balanced diet for some people and is touted for its ability to reduce dieters' weights.
The real culprit with the unhealthy American diet, it seems, isn't fats at all. It is the large portions of mixed fat and carbohydrate-heavy foods that contain processed sugar and the human-created trans fat. Restricting your meal portions, and reducing carbohydrates, can let you enjoy your healthy fats with peace of mind.
To learn more about your health, wellness and fitness, see your local chiropractor at The Joint Chiropractic in Palm Harbor, Fla.