5 Simple Rules on Fats

For the last several decades, we have dutifully heeded the advice of doctors and health experts regarding limiting dietary fats. Compared to our parents and grandparents, our consumption of fats is dramatically lower, and dramatically different ¬— thanks to problematic food product inventions such as margarine and canola oil.

Only recently has the medical establishment reversed its prohibition of saturated fats and debunked the 1950s hypothesis that saturated fat causes heart disease. But the ideas we grow up with can be hard to dislodge. Most of us have been drinking skim milk since we were kids and choosing non-fat and low-fat options wherever we find them. To change our script, it is helpful to remember the important role that fats play in the human body – as building blocks of our cell membranes, precursors to our hormonal system, and essential for the absorption of the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K.

Additionally, fats provide long-burning energy, modulating the entry of glucose into our cells so we don’t need to eat as frequently. This is why foods high in fats such as nuts and avocados make great snacks. Fats give us a feeling of satiety, and we are less likely to reach for a sugary treat when we incorporate healthy fats into our diet. Fats are genuinely confusing — Omega 3 vs. Omega 6? Saturated vs. unsaturated? Here are a few simple rules to guide you:

  1. Avoid low-fat and non-fat food products such as yogurts and salad dressings. Food manufacturers typically add sugar or other unhealthy additives to make up for the loss of flavor from removing the fat. Not to mention that you won’t get the satisfaction that full fat food offers, nor the health benefits, including vitamin absorption.

  2. Avoid highly refined, processed seed oils such as soybean oil, corn oil, safflower oil and canola oil, which are easily oxidized, producing free radicals in the body, leading to inflammation. Additionally, these polyunsaturated vegetable seed oils are produced through chemical processes using harsh chemicals such as hexane. Vegetable and seed oils are ubiquitous in chips, crackers, cookies and other snacks, providing yet another reason to minimize or eliminate packaged foods.

  3. Strive to balance your omega-3 and omega-6 fats: we need both types but most of us are getting many more omega-6s in our diet due to our high consumption of vegetable seed oils in packaged foods, prepared meals, and restaurants.

  4. Consume foods rich in omega-3s to reduce inflammation throughout your body; take krill or fish oil capsules, and eat more salmon, sardines, flax seeds, walnuts, grass-fed beef and eggs from pastured chickens.

  5. Incorporate healthy oils into your diet, such as coconut oil, olive oil, ghee or butter from grass-fed cows