We all heard the rather popular fitness and dieting tips “avoid eating fat” to minimize weight gain. However, we also hear the opposite: that it’s fine to eat fats. It’s somewhat confusing to hear two contrasting beliefs spouted by experts, with people from both sides bickering about its effects. Like the popular keto diet, some weight-control diets even incorporate an almost exclusive consumption of fats in their program. Others opt to entirely remove fat from their diet.
Both beliefs hold a sense of truth. However, the question remains: is consuming fat terrible for you?
Is Fat Detrimental to Fitness?
But before we talk about fat, let’s first discuss its factor in weight gain and the difference between fat in food and the “fat” we humans have. Eating fat-filled foods does not precisely make you gain more weight. As a matter of fact, even if you remove the fat in your diet by contracting a tennis court to be built beside your house and play the sport every day, you still won’t “burn” fat.
It’s because it’s sugar and carbohydrates that are responsible for excessive weight gain. It’s also what builds the “fats” we develop, as our body naturally stores the energy from the food we consume. When it comes to discussions of weight loss, fat doesn’t exactly play a significant role, especially when compared to processed sugars and carbohydrates.
Different Types of Fat Exist
Saying that “fat is bad” is a misleading statement. More importantly, it poses the incorrect assumption that there is only one kind of fat when there are many. The different kinds all play an essential role, and some types are best consumed more, and some are best consumed less.
The Bad Kind
Let’s begin with what needs to be avoided first: trans fat. It’s a type of unsaturated fat created during the process where vegetable oils are made partially solid from being liquid. While it is naturally occurring in many types of food, it’s usually associated with many health diseases. It increases bad cholesterol while decreasing the good cholesterol, which, when combined, leads to a higher risk of stroke and other cardiovascular diseases.
Trans fat is commonly found in processed industrial food. While the government has put in rules and regulations to limit the amount of trans fat in food, it’s best to minimize its consumption, if not avoid it entirely. Trans fat is often included in sweets like cookies, cakes, and pies, while also being found in deep-fried foods like French fries or fried chicken.
The Good Kinds
With there being a “bad kind” of fat, there must be a “good kind,” right? There is, and it generally comes from seeds, vegetables, fish, and nuts. The good kind of fats can often be categorized into two ways: polyunsaturated fat and monounsaturated fats.
Polyunsaturated fats come from plant-based oil like sunflower, soybean, corn, safflower, and other oil-producing plants. Polyunsaturated fats from plants are also rich in Omega-6 fatty acids. It’s also the type of fat commonly found in seafood, with Omega-3 fatty acids. These fatty acids are very helpful in managing blood pressure and cholesterol levels, making them highly beneficial for those with illnesses.
Other foods with polyunsaturated fats: salmon, sardines, tofu, flaxseed, chia, herring.
Monounsaturated fats are found in nut-based oils, such as cashews, peanuts, almonds, and macadamias. Even olive oil is rich in monounsaturated fats. Interestingly, it can help reduce the risk of heart diseases, especially when contrasted against trans fat (which increases the risk of heart disease). It’s often attributed as the primary reason why Mediterranean people have a lower risk for heart disease despite eating a high-fat diet.
Other foods with monounsaturated fats: olives, pumpkins, canola oil, avocados.
Balance Is the Key
At the end of the day, fats are still part of our daily dietary requirements. Unless you have a particular disease that prevents you from consuming fat, it’s still best to have some degree of it in your diet. The critical part here is balance and diversity. Make sure you’re eating a wide variety of food with different nutritional contents.
Consider making it a habit to read the nutritional label of the food you buy. You will find that many of the so-called healthy or fat-free options contain trans fat and trace amounts of sugar. It is best to be aware and vigilant of these things, with emphasis on eating good and healthy food in a well-balanced meal plan. Even junk food is fine, as long as it is done in moderation.