There is a common—and counterproductive—misconception that all fat is bad. People operating under this premise avoid foods like olive oil and avocados because these foods are high in fat content. This is really a mistake. We must understand the proper role of fats in our diet and further understand that certain types of fats are essential to proper body function and peak performance. So, I’m here to give you some helpful info on understanding fats.
Good Fats: Mono + Polyunsaturated Fats
Monounsaturated Fats (MUFAs) are helpful in a number of ways. MUFA’s generally:
- Increase good HDL cholesterol (yes, there is good cholesterol)
- Lower bad LDL cholesterol
- Fight plaque build up in arteries
MUFA’s can be found in olives, olive oil, canola oil, almonds, cashews, peanuts, peanut butter, sesame seeds and avocados. They should encompass the majority of fats consumed in a daily diet. Personally, I don’t place any limit on my MUFA intake. Most sources of MUFA’s are also high in calories, so be mindful of that. Nonetheless, there is considerable research indicating that MUFA’s actually assist in weight loss.
Polyunsaturated Fats (PUFAs) play a slightly different role and can:
- Lower bad LDL cholesterol
- Boost brain function + strengthen immune system (Omega-3)
- Assist in skin and eye health + function (Omega-6)
Cold water fish, such as wild salmon, mackerel and herring are great sources of Omega-3 fatty acids. Other sources include canola oil, flaxseed oil and walnuts. Omega-6 fatty acids can be derived from corn and safflower oil, corn-fed chicken and certain farmed fish. I don’t really like cold water fish, which is inevitably too “fishy” for me, so I take an Omega-3 supplement every day.
Bad Fats: Saturated Fats
Saturated fat is the fat you can visibly see on a piece of beef or chicken or that is in most dairy products and things like palm oil. These fats have very few benefits and have been proven to be a significant source of bad LDL cholesterol and contributor to heart disease. We need to significantly limit them in our diet.
One cup of 2% milk and one ounce of low fat mozzarella cheese have 3g of saturated fat, which is 15% of your recommended daily allowance. In my opinion, the RDA for saturated fats is far too high. Saturated fats should comprise no more than 10% of your daily intake. Tony Horton is always pounding the drum of avoiding dairy products, such as cheese. One reason is that it contains much more saturated fats then your body needs or can actually process.
Really Bad Fats: Trans Fats
Have you ever heard the saying, “If it didn’t have a mother, or didn’t come from the ground, then don’t eat it.?”
This definitely applies to trans fats, which do not occur in nature. They are chemically produced from unsaturated fats. Why? Because they help extend the shelf life of pre-packaged foods…another miracle of modern science. This gem can be found in shortening, margarine, doughnuts, french fries, crackers, chips, cakes, etc. If something sits on a shelf for any period of time, it’s probably got a fair amount of trans fats in it. Like saturated fats, trans fats raise bad LDL cholesterol. But, it gets worse…they also lower good HDL cholesterol and increase inflammation in the body. Nothing like being bloated and destroying your heart. Trans fats should be avoided. Not “limited,” but AVOIDED. They serve no positive purpose whatsoever, unless you’re looking for some heart disease and cancer.
A Few Tips
A quick note on reading Nutrition Facts labels. Nutrition Facts are required only to show total fat, saturated fats and trans fats, so you have to be clever in reading them. For example, one tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil has a whopping 14g of fat, but only 2g are saturated fats and the product contains 0g of trans fats. The label I’m reviewing actually lists the 11g of MUFAs and 1g of PUFAs that make up the remainder of the fats, but most labels don’t do this.
Another often overlooked food is hummus. Trader Joes’ Mediterranean Hummus contains 4g of fat, but only 0.5g of saturated fats and no trans fats. In addition, it contains 6g of carbs, only 1g sugar, and 3g of protein. If you’re in Phase III (Endurance Maximizer), this is nearly the exact distribution of these elements you need. So to be blunt…eat hummus!!!
It’s unfortunate that the good fats and bad fats are all lumped together as “fat.” If good fats were called something different, then there would not be so much confusion in this area. Be sure to review those labels carefully, and don’t eliminate foods simply because they contain “fat.” Fats can help your body function properly and can help you achieve your fitness goals.
Here’s a little video for you with some more helpful info:
Be sure and check out our healthy recipes, which take all this info into consideration: