For the first time in 35 years, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans has lifted the upper limit on how much fat Americans should consume. After a three-decade long “low fat craze” in North America, this may come as a surprise. But research continues to demonstrate that dietary fat is integral to a healthy diet.
The low-fat craze
“One of the most unfortunate unintended consequences of the fat-free crusade was the idea that if it wasn’t fat, it wouldn’t make you fat.” (Walter Willett, MD.)
After a string of US Senators died prematurely from heart attacks in the 1960’s and 70’s, US Senator, George McGovern, called a hearing in 1976 to raise awareness about the connections between human diet and illness. That hearing ultimately led to the first set of Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
In the decades that followed, low-fat diets became an obsession. Eggs, butter and whole milk products were feared and vilified because they were understood to cause high blood level cholesterol, heart disease and heart attack.
But even as Americans stopped eating fats, waistlines did not get smaller.
|In fact, during this same time period, obesity and Type II Diabetes began to rise.|
|As Americans cut back on dietary fats, highly processed sugars and carbohydrates filled the gap instead of the fruits and vegetables nutritionists had intended.|
The body and fat
The human body requires fat to survive and thrive. Dietary fats provide the body with long lasting energy and are critical for cells to grow. Not only do they help keep the human body warm, they also protect vital organs. Dietary fats are also responsible for helping the body absorb certain nutrients and key to producing important hormones.
The body needs fat. There is no way around it. But not all fats are equal.
Saturated fats mostly come from animal sources like meat and dairy. They are solid at room temperature and include the likes of pork, beef, lamb, cheese, butter and lard.
Transfats can be both artificial and naturally-occurring. Milk and meat products can contain some trans fats. Artificial trans fats are made during the industrial process when hydrogen is added to liquid vegetable oils to make them more solid. Any time you see the words ‘partially hydrogenated oils”, trans fats are present. Trans fats do raise cholesterol levels and can increase the risk of developing heart disease, type 2 diabetes and stroke.
Monounsaturated fats are typically found in oils. These oils are most often in a liquid state at room temperature but turn solid when cooled. Examples include olive, canola and peanut oil as well as peanut butter, seeds and nuts and avocados. Monounsaturated fats contain vitamin E and can help maintain and build the body’s cells. More here:
Similar to monounsaturated fats, polyunsaturated fats are also found in many oils and are often found in a liquid state at room temperature, but when chilled, become solid. In addition to providing vitamin E, polyunsaturated fats also contain omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids which humans must get from eating food. Examples of foods high in polyunsaturated fats include soybean, corn and sunflower oil, and fatty fish like mackerel, trout and salmon.
For optimal health and wellness, add healthy fats to your diet
Here are a few to choose from:
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