~By Sheila Garcia

For a long time, we’ve been told otherwise, so the idea that fat can be good for you is hard to swallow; but – it’s true!  Are you eating the right type of fat? There are good fats and bad fats to look for when making healthy decisions about what you are eating.Fat Facts: What’s Good About Fat?

Fat has been the target of so much disdain, yet it serves up certain benefits we can’t live without.

Fat supplies essential fatty acids (EFAs). Your body is incapable of producing the EFAs, known as linoleic acid and alpha-linolenic acid, so it must obtain them from food.  Fat transports vitamins A, D, E, and K – known as the fat-soluble vitamins – into and around the body, and is also necessary for maintaining healthy skin. It plays a fundamental role in promoting proper eyesight and brain development in babies and children, as well as how clearly your brain processes your thoughts as an adult.  For all the good it does, fat is often considered the culprit in the “Battle of the Bulge”. And it’s easy to understand why. At 9 calories per gram, any type of fat – good or bad – packs more than twice the calories of carbohydrate and protein.

Fat Facts: What’s Bad About Fat?

There is a well-established connection between fat-intake and heart disease and stroke risk.  Diets rich in saturated fat and trans-fat (both “bad” fats) raise blood cholesterol concentrations, contributing to clogged arteries that block the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the heart and brain.

But there’s a caveat: Very low-fat diets may not reduce artery-clogging compounds in the bloodstream in everyone. Nor can most people maintain a very low-fat diet in the long run. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends that we get 20% to 35% of our calories from fat. Most Americans get 34% or more.  When it comes to dietary fat, quantity and quality count.

In other words, you don’t have to eliminate fat completely for your diet!

So what can you do to ensure you are choosing the right fats?

A “fat-free” label doesn’t mean you can eat all you want without consequences to your waistline. Many fat-free foods are high in sugar, refined carbohydrates, and calories.  The mix of fats that you eat, rather than the total amount in your diet, is what matters most when it comes to your cholesterol and health. The key is to eat more good fats and less bad fats. Try replacing trans-fats and saturated fats with good fats, and eliminating trans-fats as much as possible. This might mean replacing fried chicken with fresh fish, swapping some of the meat you eat with beans and legumes, or using olive oil rather than butter.  Check food labels for trans-fats. Avoiding commercially-baked goods goes a long way. Also limit (or eliminate!) fast food. Eat omega-3 fats every day. Good sources include fish, walnuts, ground flax seeds, flaxseed oil, canola oil, and soybean oil.

Healthy Fats – Eating healthy fats, in moderation, fulfills your dietary fat needs without increasing your chronic disease risks. Examples of heart-healthy fats include:

Plant-based oils — such as olive, canola, walnut, soybean and flaxseed oils
Nuts, seeds, nut butters,

Fats to Avoid – Bad fats are those that increase your chronic disease risk when consumed in excess. These include:

Saturated animal fats – found in butter, lard, ice cream, heavy cream, cheese and high-fat meats like bacon.
Plant-based fats that have been hydrogenated and contain trans fat – found in margarine, shortening, fried foods and commercial-baked goods – also increase your risk for heart disease, so avoid them when you’re trying to eat healthfully.

So now you have the fun fat facts – it’s what you do with them that makes the difference in the health and fitness legacy you build – from the inside out!