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Here’s What Exactly Qualifies As “Healthy” Fat

Here’s What Exactly Qualifies As “Healthy” Fat

Sometimes, looking at food labels can make our heads spin. Which one is supposed to be good for you — low-fat, non-fat, saturated fat, unsaturated fat? Full-on lard? Ugh. Just tell us if we’re allowed to eat butter now or not. If you’re just as confused as we are by all the info on fat you get from random celebrity health advice and crazy fad diets (not to mention how it’s impossible to keep up when the recommendations always seem to be changing), here are some answers.

We talked to Jonny Bowden, PhD, CNS, a certified nutritionist and nationally known expert on weight loss and health. Bowden — AKA the “The Nutrition Myth Buster” — has appeared on Fox News, CNN, MSNBC, ABC, NBC and CBS, and written for dozens of health magazines and national publications. He also literally wrote the book on fat (Smart Fat: Eat More Fat. Lose More Weight. Get Healthy Now.), so we asked him to set the record straight on fat, and give us some tips on how to healthily incorporate it into our diets.

B+C: Can you explain the concept of “healthy” fats, and why they’re so important?

JB: Fat and protein are the only two macronutrients we can’t live without. Both are essential to our health. We can actually live with zero dietary carbohydrate — we don’t suggest that, but it’s possible. You could not survive with zero fat or zero protein intake.

So healthy fats are basically fats that are not damaged and that don’t contribute to inflammation. It doesn’t matter if they’re saturated or unsaturated, what matters is if they are toxic or clean. Toxic fats come from animals that have been shot full of antibiotics, steroids and hormones and are eating pesticide-laden grains and GMO corn, and from man-made trans fats. Healthy, clean fats come from grass-fed animals that are raised on pasture organically, wild salmon, coconut oil, olive oil and certified Malaysian palm oil, just as a few examples.

They are healthy and important because 1) they are the number one dietary source of energy, and 2) they get incorporated into cell membranes providing both structure/strength and flexibility. Healthy fats like omega-3 are highly anti-inflammatory, while an abundance of vegetable oils contributes to inflammation. Malaysian palm oil, for example, is red because of its high concentration of carotenoids (not to mention tocotrienols, which are protective to the brain). Coconut oil has lauric acid, which is anti-microbial and anti-viral. Olive oil contains important polyphenols.

B+C: What are the signs that you’re not getting enough dietary fat? What are some signs that you might be getting too much?

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