Blast Off: Get the skinny on fats

Despite their bad reputation, some types of fat are essential to your health and should not be to blame for the growing obesity epidemic.

There is still a very common misconception that low-fat diets are the answer to weight loss. Despite their bad reputation, some types of fat are essential to your health and should not be to blame for the growing obesity epidemic. Your body needs fat (in moderation) to function properly.

Fat is responsible for providing the essential fatty acids your body requires to produce testosterone and trigger muscle growth. Fat ensures you have healthy looking skin and hair. Fat helps you feel full longer, thereby controlling your appetite, and is essential for the delivery of vitamins A, D, E, and K. Believe it or not, diets that include 20 to 35 per cent of calories from healthy fats can actually help people lose weight.

That being said, not all fats are created equal, and some fats should be avoided at all costs! Invented in the 1950s, trans fats are ridden with chemicals that raise bad cholesterol levels, increase heart disease by causing plaque buildup in the arteries, and increase your chances of developing diabetes and unhealthy abdominal weight. Trans fats are created as a by-product of hydrogenation; a chemical process that changes liquid oils into solid fats. They are used to extend the shelf life of processed foods such as crackers, cookies, cakes, fries, and donuts. To ensure you stay away from trans fats, avoid any food items that contain hydrogenated oil or partially hydrogenated oil, especially deep-fried products and store-bought baked goods. Switch your margarine for butter and read your labels; food manufacturers are required to list trans fat content on nutritional fact labels so it’s easy to make the right choices.

Saturated fats, found in meat and dairy products, should be consumed in moderation. Although they come from natural sources, your body is less likely to burn saturated fats as energy, preferring to store these fats around your abdominal area. Saturated fats also raise bad cholesterol levels, which in turn increases your risk of heart disease and diabetes. This does not mean you should avoid meats and dairy, but next time you’re at the grocery store, opt for leaner cuts and choose 1 per cent milk instead of full fat.

So what kind of fats should you eat? Polyunsaturated fats, commonly known as omega-3s and omega 6s, are a great choice that are proven to help lower total cholesterol levels, protect the heart from cardiovascular disease, and even help control weight by possibly increasing your metabolism. Omega 6 polyunsaturated fats are commonly found in vegetable oils (safflower, sunflower, sesame oils), meat, eggs, and dairy products. Most people are already consuming plenty of omega 6 fats, but to ensure you are getting enough omega 3s, try to incorporate more fish (sardines, sablefish, salmon, tuna, trout…) and flaxseed into your diet. Another important source of fats are the monounsaturated fats found in nuts, olives, avocados, olive and canola oil. Like omega 3 polyunsaturated fats, these fats not only lower LDL (bad cholesterol) and protect against heart disease, but can also help you burn fat.

Next time you’re shopping for low fat or no fat salad dressing, just remember the benefits of healthy fats in your diet and whisk up your own salad dressing by combining olive oil and balsamic vinegar with a dash of Dijon mustard and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. The types of fat you eat matters more than the total amount of fat in your diet.

Your body needs fat to burn fat, but it needs to be the right kind. If you deprive your body of fat, it will hold onto all of your stored fat as a protective mechanism, thus making it very hard to burn. “Fat-free” or “low-fat” ways of eating don’t work; the proof is in the growing obesity rate. To stay healthy, try to focus on sources of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, eat saturated fats in moderation, and eliminate trans fats at all costs.

For more information or to receive a free fitness assessment and consult, contact Fitness 4 Life at 250-688-0024 or 250-688-0221.

Previously: Ditch your routine to get results