Extra body fat is unhealthy, but eating good, healthy fats has important health benefits. In this article, Dr. Lara outlines the importance of including good healthy fats in your diet. Healthy protein and good fats are nutritional cornerstones of Dr. Lara’s weight loss program.
Healthy Fats vs. Unhealthy Fats
Two common health misconceptions are:
- All fat calories are the same.
- Eating fat automatically leads to gaining extra body fat.
The reality is that all fat calories are not the same. The key is to favor foods that are high in healthy unsaturated fat, and low in saturated fat, as well as sodium and cholesterol.
How Do Unsaturated, “Healthy Fats” Benefit Our Bodies?
Fat is a Fuel Source
Fat is an essential nutrient. The fats we eat give our body the energy that it needs to function properly. During exercise, the body uses calories from carbohydrates (unless you are following a ketogenic diet). But after the body exhausts the carb source, exercise depends on the energy from fat to keep us going.
Fat is a Memory Aid
Fat aids memory and learning. A diet high in foods with monounsaturated fats, such as avocado, olive oil, and nuts, leads to healthy cell membranes and an increase in the production of acetylcholine(4). Acetylcholine is a neurotransmitter that is critical for memory and learning.
Fat Improves Nutrient Absorption
Eating fat-free can lead to a number of health problems. Specifically, vitamin deficiencies because some vitamins require fat to be absorbed and to do their jobs, which include energy production, keeping cells functioning, and supporting the immune system. Fat helps to absorb vitamins A, D, E, and K, the fat-soluble vitamins.
Fat Delivers Essential Acids
The fats the body gets from food give the body essential fatty acids(5) called linoleic and linolenic acid. These are called essential because the body cannot make them on its own, or function without them. Our bodies need them for brain development, blood clotting, and controlling inflammation.
Fat Provides Satiety
If we’re not eating a balanced diet, then the body is going to attempt to make it up somewhere. For example, if we’re not getting enough fat the body isn’t getting the fuel it needs. People who eat less fat tend to eat more carbs — and the combination of more carbs with less fat can lead to feeling hungry more often.
Fat Supports Hormone Balance
A lack of dietary fat can lead to a hormonal imbalance. Cholesterol is not only an important part of our cell membranes but it also is needed for the creation of hormones. Pregnenolone is directly synthesized from cholesterol, which is a precursor to estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, and other hormones.
Dr. Lara’s Favorite Healthy Fats
Avocados are a versatile food with rich texture and delicious flavor, and they’re extremely nutritious.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Olive oil is rich in healthy monounsaturated fats and loaded with antioxidants. Make sure to select a high-quality extra virgin olive oil (this denotes non-heat treated).
In general nuts are great sources of healthy fats, along with fiber and plant-based protein.
Salmon is known as a powerful ‘brain food’ thanks to it’s rich supply of omega-3 fatty acids.
Eggs are a great source of protein and healthy fat and an ideal food for weight loss.