MYTH: Eating Foods With Fat Makes You Fat

When it comes to fats, there are some good and bad versions. It's time to learn how to choose the right ones.

The Truth: Fat doesn’t make you fat — foods that contain fat are part of a healthy diet. You’ve just got to know the right kinds.

What do you think makes you fat? If your short answer is fat, you’re wrong. But you’re not alone. Many people believe that eating fats, whatever kinds, is a direct path to weight gain. The truth is CALORIES are making you fat, not fat itself. Consuming too many calories and eating poor-quality fats are what lead to unnecessary weight gain. Keep reading to learn why many fats are good for you, which ones you should eat, and which to avoid.

Fats are essential for your health. There are countless nutritional benefits to including healthy fats in your diet. Fats help maintain a lean body and assist with metabolic function. The chief function of essential fatty acids is the production of prostaglandins, which control functions like blood clotting, fertility, heart rate, and blood pressure. Fat also provides a constant level of energy and enables your body to absorb more nutrients, including essential vitamins and antioxidants. In addition, fats help your body fight infection by regulating inflammation.

Stick to monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.The most beneficial fat you can consume is monounsaturated fat, which raises your “good” HDL cholesterol and lowers your “bad” LDL, helping to reduce your risk of heart disease and other conditions. You can find these fats in healthy sources, like extra-virgin olive oil, almonds, avocados, cashews, peanuts, and more. Another healthy source of fat is polyunsaturated fats, some of which are high in omega-6 fatty acids, like walnuts, flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds, and sunflower seeds. Polyunsaturated fats that are high in omega-3 fatty acid are also really good for you — this includes fish, cabbage, cauliflower, and broccoli. Omega-3s help to reduce inflammation and lower your risk of heart disease and heart attacks. Both of these types of fats are easy to burn — making them unlikely to stick around as stored fat.

Steer clear of trans fats. Trans fat is man-made through a process called hydrogenation, which basically involves heating up vegetable oil in the presence of hydrogen gas and changing the structure so that the fat stays solid at room temperature but melts when heated. Trans fats raise LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, lower HDL (“good”) cholesterol, and increase inflammation, among many other negative effects. Trans fats can be found in many processed foods — margarine is a major culprit, in addition to packaged foods, like cake mixes, soups, fast food, frozen foods, baked goods, and more. Get this: Recent studies suggest that even if only 3 percent of your daily calories come from trans fats, you can end up raising your risk of heart disease by a whopping 23 percent. Trans fats are potentially deadly. You should avoid them altogether!

The Bottom Line: Foods that contain fat can be part of a healthy diet — you just have to make sure you’re eating the right ones! Monounsaturated fats (like almonds and avocados) and polyunsaturated fats (like walnuts and fish) are really good for you, whereas trans fats (found in fast food like fries, packaged foods like cake mixes, and more) should be avoided at all costs.

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