Fat, The 5 Things You Need to Know

Dietary fats are more important than you may have previously thought. Of course we know they are deeply satisfying, providing a feeling of fullness, and add flavor - but there is a lot more. Here’s what you need to know...

June 20, 2014

Dietary fats are more important than you may have previously thought. Of course we know they are essential for keeping inflammation at bay, but they are also deeply satisfying, providing a feeling of fullness, and add a flavor, texture, and consistency to foods that we like – and expect. Fats are found in every cell membrane in all the cells in the body, and they are critical components of brain and nervous tissue. Additionally, fats are used to make hormones that affect blood pressure, blood clotting, immune function, and smooth muscle contraction.

For over two decades, health and nutrition researchers have discussed and debated the role of dietary fats; most of the debates have failed to stress the benefits of certain classes of fats and have mainly focused on the negative aspects. Until recently, virtually all of these discussions were based on recommendations from the National Academy of Sciences during the ‘80s. Following recommendations, Americans lowered their intake; saturated fat was seen as the bad guy, but little attention was given to the many benefits associated with other fats. Here are five things you need to know.

You need fat: Your body needs fat in order to function, without fats, we would not be able to properly absorb fat-soluble nutrients like vitamin A, D, E and K, and the range of carotenoids, the nutrients in foods like carrots and sweet potatoes.

Fat is great for the cardiovascular system and for managing weight: Researchers studying the Mediterranean diet, which consists of eating a variety of healthy foods that include whole grains, vegetables, protein and healthy monounsaturated and omega-3 fats, consistently find that this way of eating may lower heart disease risk nearly 30 percent. Healthy fats can also help you manage your weight. In fact, 25 to 30 percent of your total daily calories should come from fat.

The healthiest “fatty” foods: Olive oil, eggs, seeds and nuts, fish, avocado, coconut, grass fed or pastured chicken and beef.

Is lard making a comeback? Previously, lard was the fat that people cooked with. It wasn't butter, or canola oil or extra virgin olive oil. Lard - rendered pig fat - was what people used when they needed to make pastry; and even smeared on a piece of bread. It doesn't smoke at high temperatures so it's perfect for frying. It does wonders while roasting. Lard has 20 percent less saturated fat than butter; it's higher in monounsaturated fats which are said to lower LDL cholesterol; and it has no trans fats like shortening.

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