Don’t Be Afraid of Fat

By Michelle Paschoal, Contributing Writer

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Avocados and cashews are two healthy fats you can easily incorporate into your diet. Photo courtesy of sea turtle (Flickr).
Avocados and cashews are two healthy fats you can easily incorporate into your diet.
Photo courtesy of sea turtle (Flickr).

If you were looking into nutrition trends 10 years ago, the assumption that consuming fat is bad for you was circulating around in discussions of health. Myths have been passed along saying that eating fat makes you fat or consuming a low-fat diet is healthier for you.

In the last 5 years, however, those myths have changed and now we’re hearing that we should eat lots of fat because it is good for us and consuming a high-fat low-carbohydrate diet is the way to go.

Clearly, all this fat talk can get pretty confusing and with society constantly changing its mind about how much fat we should consume, how do we know what we should do? Here are a few facts and tips to help you navigate your way through this fat debate.

First off, we need to know what a fat is. Fat is one of the three macronutrients, the others being carbohydrates and protein. There are two main types of fat: saturated and unsaturated fat.

Saturated fats are things such as butter, whole milk, meat, vegetable oil, fried foods and frozen foods. Consuming high amounts of saturated fat has been linked to heart disease. We should only consume less than 10 percent of saturated fats in our diet, because they raise our bad cholesterol (LDL) and they lower our good cholesterol (HDL).

Unsaturated fats are things such as olive, canola and soybean oils, as well as avocado, walnuts and cashews. Unsaturated fats are good for your body and help main cholesterol levels. They give you energy and keep your body functioning. It is recommended to consume no more than 30 percent of unsaturated fat in our diet.

Now, let’s break this down even more. Unsaturated fat can be separated into two categories: monounsaturated fat and polyunsaturated fat. These are both essential for our body and help us live.

Monounsaturated fats help us lower that bad cholesterol we talked about earlier and it raises our good cholesterol. These are found in plant foods and oils. Polyunsaturated fats contain omega-3 fatty acids and omega-6 fatty acids. These fatty acids build healthy cells and maintain brain and nerve function. Consuming polyunsaturated fats has been linked to lower the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and brain diseases.

As college students, you may not be thinking too much about heart disease or diabetes, but maybe it runs in your family. Consuming unsaturated fats can help lower your risk in the future, so make the habit now to try and eat them daily.

Since there are many different types of diets out there today such as paleo, high-fat low-carbohydrate vegan, high-carbohydrate diets and non-fat diets, there can be some confusion about how you should eat. We’ve learned that consuming fats are essential for our bodies and help us live, so that rules out those non-fat diets. But that doesn’t mean start eating all the bacon and butter you want. Consuming the right kinds of fat, such as unsaturated fats, as well as in the right amount, is the most important thing.

If there is one thing you should take out of this, I urge you not to fear fat. Healthy fats are great for your body and incorporating them into your diet will benefit you now and in the long run.

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