Fat has a bad rap, and it bothers us so much that we want to take some time to bust some myths and set the record straight. Here it is, plain and simple: your body needs fat to survive and thrive. Please don’t fear it.
Now, we’re talking about good fats – the natural fats found in fish, plants, avocados, nuts, seeds and unrefined oils. These are high in omega-3s, saturated and monosaturated fats – all of which have important functions in the body. The fat that isn't in our good books? Trans fat. Commonly hiding in margarine and commercial biccies and cakes, trans fats form when when hydrogen is added to vegetable oil so that it becomes solid. Research suggests that it is trans fats, NOT saturated fats that are contributing to cardiovascular disease risk by encouraging the development of undesirable, artery-clogging LDL cholesterol.
And let's not forget to mention the sugar fructose, the most undesirable sugar of them all when it's concentrated, such as in high fructose corn syrup and fruit juice concentrate. Fructose lights up our brains' reward centre, which makes it hard to stop eating the stuff. And while the body is able to break down glucose (the other most common sugar we eat) for energy, it's our liver only that can deal with fructose, turning it into fat. Too much fructose over time can lead to a range of health complications, including non-alcoholic fatty liver disease - common in individuals with obesity and/or type 2 diabetes.
Let’s shine the spotlight back onto the most underrated nutrient. These are 7 of the most incredible health benefits of eating good fats.
1. It creates a lean body
Repeat after me: fat doesn’t make you fat! In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Your body requires good fat to stay lean and strong, so eating it can actually help you to your optimal body composition. There are a few reasons why this is the case. Firstly, the top layer of cells in your body is made up of omega-3 fats, which work hard to reduce inflammation, rev up the metabolism and improve sensitivity. These fats also turn on the genes that promote fat burning, and support thyroid function – two things that help to balance out your hormones and weight. Finally, fat is filling; it curbs hunger as well as sugar cravings, leaving you feeling satisfied. Sugar (especially refined sugar) is to blame for weight gain, not fat, so don’t be scared to eat that avocado!
2. It’s key to brain health
Want to boost your brainpower? Add fat to your daily diet. Brain tissue is made up of nearly 60% fat, so that brilliant brain of yours needs it to function at its peak. Here’s how it works: essential vitamins such as A, D, E and K aren’t water-soluble, so they rely on fat to transport themselves around the body. Without fat, they don’t get absorbed. And without these vitamins, your brain and memory don’t perform as well as they should. Omega-3 is also known to improve mood, while vitamin D reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and depression. (You know how people say to go outside in the sunshine when you’re feeling down? It’s the same principle). The takeaway point here? Eat fat, and do your brain a favour.
3. It boosts immunity
The essential fatty acids in fat are just that: essential. They’re crucial for cell health, and that’s where immunity comes in. Our white blood cells need fatty acids to do their job – i.e. identifying and destroying the kind of ‘foreign invaders’ that make us sick, like viruses and bacteria. Coconut oil is particularly good at warding off illness (seriously, is there anything coconut oil can’t do?). Along with slathering it on your skin, try cooking with it or simply eating a tablespoon of the stuff a day. We swear by it.
4. It keeps skin healthy
Speaking of skin, fat is responsible for keeping it in tip-top condition. Our skin is the largest organ, and it’s made up of a huge number of cells. And what is the cell membrane mostly made up of? You guessed it: fat. When we don’t consume enough fat, it shows on our skin: it can become dry, chapped, and dull. Plus, fat contains antioxidants for a glowy complexion. This isn’t just a cosmetic thing, either. Our skin protects the body from infection, so it needs to be nice and strong. Oh, and if you want luscious locks, fat will help with that, too.
5. It’s good for your heart
This is the health benefit of fat that confuses many people. And it’s no wonder why: for years, we were told that fat was the root cause of high cholesterol, high blood pressure and heart disease. We were told to avoid them – and that was terrible advice. Sure, if you eat trans fats (like the ones found in packaged foods) all day long, your heart won’t love you for it. But good fats do wonders for the heart. They’re high in phenols, which lowers blood pressure and they help to reduce inflammation and pump essential fatty acids into the bloodstream for a happy, healthy heart.
6. It lifts energy
Fat is a great source of energy. Our body converts the fat we eat into energy for growth, development and other bodily functions. It helps the body to stay energised for longer. On top of this, fat’s a great energy store. When we consume calories that the body doesn’t need right away, they’re stored in special fat cells called adipose tissue for use at a later time. Pretty cool, huh?
7. It strengthens bones
By now, we’re hoping you understand why we’re huge fans of fat, but let’s throw in one more major benefit for good measure. Our bones need healthy fats to stay strong and healthy. Good fats contain vitamin D and K2, which are the building blocks of bone, while the omega-3 fatty acids work to strengthen bones. #impressive
How to eat fat
You know all about why you should eat fat, so let’s talk about how you should eat it! Simply add a little bit of fat to each meal and snack. For example, scramble your eggs in coconut oil, munch on a few walnuts, enjoy a piece of salmon, and drizzle extra virgin olive oil onto your salad. Go on, then…
Which of these health benefits of fat impressed you most? Let us know in the comment section below!