“Fat seems to have assumed, even at low levels, the role of a toxin.”
- Paul Rozin, Psychologist, University of Pennsylvania
Fat can’t be healthy, right?
How many times have you heard someone refer to fat as the enemy? How many infomercials have you watched that tell you to burn stubborn body fat? How many celebrities have you seen starve themselves with low fat diets in order to achieve the perfect physique?
“People usually confuse themselves, or don’t know enough about fats to understand their significance,” says Tessa Prior-Pullins, one of the lead dietitians for BistroMD. “There are actually two types of fats: good fats and bad fats.”
Bad fats are what you should fret about, but healthy fats are absolutely critical if you want to lose weight and be healthy.
So, with help from our expert, we answer the age-old question: Can you be fit with fat, and still be healthy?
Why Healthy Fats Matter
Most people don’t realize that if you don’t consume a diet with fat, you won't live very long.
“Instead of looking at fats as the enemy, think of them more as something you can’t live without,” says Tessa. “Just as long as they are the right kinds of fats.”
Healthy fats are unsaturated, and you should select foods with these types of fats as opposed to foods with saturated or trans fat.
“Dietary fat is one of three macronutrients your body needs, along with protein and carbohydrates,” says Tessa. “Fat is essential, as it is a crucial part in a number of your body’s functions. Good fats even act as a carrier for vitamins to nourish the rest of your body.”
This is why extremely low-fat diets can be bad for you. Totally eliminating fat from your diet means that you are depriving yourself of fat-soluble vitamins and essential fatty acids.
“Healthy fats also play an important role when it comes to retraining your metabolism to burn excess stored fat,” says Tessa. “Healthy fats, combined with the proper balance of protein and carbohydrates will help you lose weight the healthy and safe way.”
So, not only do our bodies need fat to survive, but we also need fat to lose weight—you actually need fat to burn fat.
"There is no doubt that you can still eat healthy fats, and be fit and healthy," says Tessa.
Fats Help Lower Risks of Certain Diseases
When people think about fat, more than likely, it isn’t associated with helping reduce your risk of certain health conditions—like heart disease and diabetes. It's probably just the opposite. Most people think that fat actually causes these conditions.
“Bad fats are to blame for these type of conditions," says Tessa. "“Healthy fats, in combination with the appropriate diet of other nutrients, will help you maintain a healthy weight. Being at an average weight for your height, gender, and age can lower you risk of diabetes and heart disease by about 10-15%.”
Other than keeping you healthy, you can be fit and still eat a diet that contains fat. Here are some examples of how eliminating fats from your diet could affect your lifestyle, and why it is bad for you.
1. Eating a diet with healthy fats will prevent you from being too thin and “unfit.”
“People who are slightly overweight who eat a diet of healthy fats have half the risk of mortality of normal-weight people who don’t eat any type of fat at all,” says Tessa. “This is partly, because, the normal-weight people lack a diet significant in fat.”
This means that totally eliminating fat from your diet can be very unhealthy, and why thin isn't always "in." Being thin can sometimes be more unhealthy than being slightly overweight. This is why fat balanced properly into your daily meals is so important, and why it is essential for helping you stay healthy.
Just don't neglect the protein and carbohydrates too.
2. When eating a healthy diet with healthy fats, fitness is important.
In a study published by the Journal of Clinical Nutrition, people who ate a diet with healthy fats, in combination with an effective exercise program, had normal blood pressure, cholesterol, tiglycerides, and blood sugar levels.
This goes to show that a diet with the right kinds of fat can be a good thing. Thinner people who neglected fats were found to be abnormal in these areas, which can increase your risk of certain diseases.
3. Getting fit with fat is more realistic than getting slim without it.
“For most people, diets don’t work in the long run,” says Tessa. “This is because people don’t eat the right combinations of food.”
People try to be too slim too fast. A healthy diet with the right kinds of fats can help you lose weight, but at a healthy pace, making it easier to lose weight and keep it off.
When thin people neglect fats, they are actually starving their bodies, and forcing their bodies to feed off necessary muscle and cell tissues for energy. Fats actually help prevent this from happening—by giving your body the proper nutrition and energy it needs from food.
So, if you think all fats are bad, think of them in this regard—you can’t be healthy without them.