Here we go again, let’s talk about fat. If you’re like most people trying to learn the truth about whether fat is good, what kinds of fat can be good and how much fat you actually need in your diet, you’ve probably come across an avalanche of contradictory information. Even some of the most credible sources available don’t line up precisely on their recommendations. It’s tough to parse out guidelines from all the trends, gimmicks and outright fabrications, but Olumia Life is here to help.
The different types of fat
First off, not all fat is the same. There are actually 4 primary types of dietary fat (not to be confused with the fat in your body currently) that will come up here. Some types should be avoided completely while others are essential to a healthy diet.
The easiest type of fat to discuss, trans fat used to be common in lots of processed foods, but avoiding it has become much easier. In fact, the FDA is currently minimizing trans fat usage in foods in general. In the meantime, trans fat amounts are required to always be displayed as part of the Nutrition Facts on packaging. Basically, if you see anything containing partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, avoid it. Trans fat is simply bad for you. No amount is healthy.
The idea of fat being saturated already sounds pretty gross, but it’s in many of the healthy foods you eat. Saturated fat, found in meat and dairy and other foods, like coconut oil, is often said to be bad for us, causing heart disease, etc.
However, moderate saturated fat intake is not dangerous. The French have a high fat diet, full of cheese, cream and other foods high in saturated fats, but have a low incidence of heart disease. A landmark 2010 meta-analysis (a study that studies other studies) looked at the results of myriad previous studies in order to draw scientifically accurate conclusions on saturated fat’s effect on a person’s health. The researchers found that moderate saturated fat intake was not associated with heart disease.
Of course, that’s a moderate level of saturated fat in your diet. Anything you eat can be bad for you if you go overboard. The Olumia Life Nutrition plan, however, is designed to maintain a healthy amount of saturated fat in your diet; this includes cholesterol.
There are two forms of unsaturated fats: monounsaturated fatty acids and polyunsaturated fatty acids (MUFA and PUFA, respectively). MUFAs can help lower the risk of heart disease and improve your insulin levels. Their presence in many oils, like olive oil, are part of why so many people find the Mediterranean diet so helpful. You can also find MUFAs in avocados, many nuts and canola oil.
Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids
PUFAs are also found in many oils, like sunflower, flaxseed and corn oil. Of course, it’s worth noting that no single food contains only one sort of fat. It’s just that foods are mostly one sort of fat. Polyunsaturated fats themselves are split into 2 subgroups: substances containing mostly omega-3 fatty acids and others containing primarily omega-6 fatty acids. Both types are considered “essential” by nutritionists, meaning your body requires them but can’t produce them on its own.
Unfortunately, the modern diet often includes too many omega-6s and not nearly enough omega-3s. (You can find omega-6s in most vegetable oils.) This is one of the reasons why eating omega-3 rich foods, like green, leafy vegetables and fish, is so important to a healthy diet. Omega-3’s are good for heart health, among numerous other benefits.
How much fat and how much of each type do you need?
While dietary specifics are as varied as people are, we can still draw some simple guidelines when it comes to fat. Don’t eat trans fat at all. Saturated fat is OK so long as you only eat red meat a couple times a week. MUFAs and PUFAs are important parts of a diet and should be in most of your meals. Specifically, it’s important to make a point of including omega-3 fatty acids in your foods.
When it comes to your individual needs, the Olumia Life program is designed to tailor itself to your dietary needs. It’s the easiest way to eat well without using a spreadsheet every time you grab a bite to eat.