While there are no such things as good or bad foods, there certainly are foods that provide us with some amazing health benefits. A big buzzword phrase in the health and fitness industry is “healthy fats,” — so what’s that all about?
First off, fats are essential for our bodies to thrive. They help support joint health, nutrient absorption, healthy hormones, digestion and, as a bonus, keep our nails, skin, and hair looking great!
That being said, no matter how many vitamins, minerals or potential superpowers a food might give us, too much of a good thing is still too much. Fats are the macronutrients with the highest calories — 9 calories per gram versus the 4 calories per gram than carbs and protein contain — so it’s important that we moderate our intake in order to meet our physique and performance goals.
Let’s talk about the most common types of fats and what we need to know about them when considering adding them to our diets.
Saturated fats are solid at room temperature and are most commonly found in animal byproducts like high-fat and processed meat and high-fat dairies such as cheese and butter. Trans fats, which are man-made fats derived from vegetable oil, also fall under the saturated fats category. These are most often found in highly processed foods since they are cheaper alternatives to using butter or high-quality oil. These fats can increase the LDL level in our blood, which is “bad” cholesterol when consumed in excess, so enjoy these foods moderately.
Unsaturated fats are what gets labeled as “good fats” most of the time. These include both polyunsaturated fats and monounsaturated fats like olive oil, avocado, and whole eggs. These fat sources can help reduce LDL cholesterol levels while increasing HDL levels, which is good cholesterol!
Omega-3s vs. Omega-6s
Omega-3s are often the stars of the show when it comes to talking about healthy fat choices. They can help improve joint health and reduce inflammation — but what about omega-6s?
Omega-3 and omega-6 are both polyunsaturated fats that we must source from our diets because our body doesn’t naturally produce them. While both fats are essential, most people can benefit from increasing their omega-3 consumption since the traditional Western diet already contains plenty of omega-6 fats (mainly from food and cooking oils like sunflower, palm, soybean, and canola oils). These are present in the majority of processed foods, which are often go-tos due to convenience and availability. Omega-3s can be sourced from fatty fish (like salmon, mackerel and sardines), flax, walnuts or fish oil. We recommend consuming about 2-3 g of EPA/DHA per day.
While conventionally raised meat and fish still fuel your body, incorporating grass-fed beef and wild-caught fish into your diet has some points to consider next time you’re in the grocery store.
Grass-fed beef naturally has a better ratio of healthy fats, higher omega-3s, and lower omega-6s, and overall about three times more omega-3 fatty acids than conventionally raised beef. Therefore, you get more omega-3s for your fat/macro buck. Wild-caught salmon also contains fewer calories and grams of fat than farmed salmon and, of that fat content, provides about four times more omega-3s.
So now that you know why you need healthy fats, here are some recipes on our blog featuring high omega-3 fats that you can check out below.