What Does Healthy Fat Do?
Whereas "fat" and "healthy" historically did not exactly match, you might be surprised to know what the pairing does together!
Before exploring how fats benefit the body, it is imperative to identify what dietary fat actually is. Fat itself is one of the three macronutrients, with carbohydrate and protein being the other two. Dietary fat is further broken down into trans, saturated, and unsaturated fats:
Trans fats are naturally found in meats and dairy products, though the vast intake and concern relates to its manmade variation used in food production to uphold shelf life and flavor. Also identified as partially hydrogenated oil on Ingredient labels, trans fat is commonly found in margarines, pastries, desserts, and convenience and fried foods.
With trans fats being a well-known risk factor for heart disease, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has taken great strides to remove it from the food supply. But until its exclusion, the American Heart Association (AHA) recommends lowering intake to less than 1 percent of total daily calories or completely avoiding it altogether.
A primary, well-recognized example of saturated fat includes butter, as it is solid at room temperature though can soften under warmer conditions. Other common saturated fat sources include animal and processed meats, fuller fat milk and dairy products, convenience snacks, and some plant oils such as coconut and palm oils.
In worry of saturated fat causing heart disease, the American Heart Association (AHA) encourages consuming less than 7 percent of total daily calories from saturated fat, or no more than 120 calories (or 13 grams) from its sources.
Unlike saturated and trans fats that may actually contribute to heart disease, unsaturated fats work to reverse it. There are two types of unsaturated fats, including monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids:
• Monounsaturated Fats
Also known as MUFAs, monounsaturated fatty acids have shown to improve cholesterol levels and control blood sugars. MUFAs are naturally found in olive and canola oils, peanuts, and avocados.
• Polyunsaturated Fats
Polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) are further broken down into two subtypes, omega-3 and 6 fatty acids. Omega-3s are sourced from fatty fish (such as mackerel, salmon, anchovy, herring, sardines, and tuna), flaxseeds, walnuts, and their respective oils. On the other hand, omega-6s are primarily found in vegetable oils (corn, sunflower, safflower, and soybean) and some meats. Like MUFAs, polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) have shown to improve cholesterol levels and may reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, especially if omega-3s take precedency over omega-6s in the diet.
What Do Fats Do for Your Body?
While cutting that so-called "bad fat" is essential to losing weight and overall health, what about healthy fat? Any good diet requires the presence of healthy fats and here are just a few reasons why:
Healthy Fat Helps Control Hunger and Cholesterol Levels
After we eat foods that contain fat, they linger in the stomach longer than both carbohydrate and protein. That being said, healthy fats help us feel fuller for longer bouts of time and control hunger levels.
Not only do these foods help control your hunger, but these "good fats" are (not ironically) good for your cholesterol, heart, and overall health. "Bad fats" essentially only satisfy you for a little while and eventually increase the risk of heart disease.
Healthy Fat Promotes a Healthy Metabolism
In addition to an adequate intake of protein and carbohydrates, your body needs fat in order to maintain a steady metabolism.
And unlike popular belief, healthy fats boosts metabolism to help rid the body of unwanted, excess body fat. Think of it this way: If there is not sufficient nutrition in the foods you consume (including healthy fat), your body will essentially cannibalize off its lean mass for the energy to burn its fat mass. This is why a well-balanced diet is so essential when it comes to promoting a healthy and effective metabolism.
Healthy Fat Carries the Good Stuff
Other than helping your metabolism stay on track, healthy fat is one of your body’s best transporters. Fat molecules are actually responsible for transporting several nutrients throughout the body, including the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K.
The fat-soluble vitamins are absolutely necessary for good health. In fact, inadequate intake of vitamin A, for example, can cause blindness and other problematic conditions. Without vitamin D, your bones can become weak and brittle, and without vitamin E, you could experience changes in your blood and muscular problems.
Healthy Fat Protects Vital Organs
Other than promoting a healthy metabolism and transporting essential vitamins, healthy fat also helps insulate and protect vital organs.
Even if you have a smaller frame, most "thinner" people still have at least 10 percent body fat just for these reasons. Fat serves as a cushion for organs and protects them from being harmed by any sort of trauma.
Embracing Healthy Fats in the Diet
Now that the question of, "What do fats do for the body?" is verified, you might be anxious to know how to include healthier options into your diet. Fortunately, replacing unhealthy fats with healthy fats in the diet can be simple, including by checking ingredient labels, making a grocery list filled with healthy fat options, and cooking with healthy oils in the kitchen.
Furthermore, bistroMD offers an extensive list of recipes embracing healthy fats, including
blackened salmon paired with Cajun cauliflower florets, baked tilapia with tomato caper sauce, Asian tuna steak,
apple walnut crisp, and a creamy
avocado ice cream!
But wait, bistroMD also offers balanced meals straight to your doorsteps! Each meal contains an average of 1,200 to 1,400 calories daily with 40 to 50 percent of total caloric intake from lean, adequate protein, 20 to 25 percent of calories from healthy fats, and 30 to 35 percent from complex carbohydrate.
And offering 200 recipes and a customizable menu, including a smoked salmon omelet, albacore tuna noodle casserole, grilled salmon with creamy pesto, Moroccan beef and vegetables with quinoa, there is sufficient variety to satisfy the nutrients your body needs and the flavors your taste buds crave!