If you aren’t one who reads much nutrition information, you might assume that eating fat will make you fat — and you might be inclined to avoid it. However, so far as your health is concerned, that’s a really bad idea.
Dietary fat is a much different beast than the fat that shows up beneath your skin. Limiting one type of fat isn’t a healthy method of trying to trim the other. Fats play a number of important roles in the functioning of your body every single day. Diets applauded as generally successful and health-promoting, such as the Mediterranean diet, have fats as a central staple.
There are a few different types of fat to consider: Unsaturated fats, saturated fats, and trans fats. Only one of these fats should be avoided entirely: trans fats. Foods with trans fats typically include pre-packaged and processed sweets, fried foods, and margarine. Trans fats have been linked to a number of adverse health effects and have even inspired some legal action to ban these fats from public consumption.
But you probably eat the other types of fats, unsaturated and saturated, every day. Unsaturated fats are found in foods such as olive oil, almonds, avocados, and salmon. Saturated fats are found in foods such as red meat — which has controversy of its own — butter, and cheese. No matter where you get your fats from, they’re important. Here are 10 reasons why.
Do you ever feel like your brain is foggy, or like you just can’t concentrate? You might not be eating enough fat. Your brain relies on fat to function. The organ is literally made of 80 percent fat. So if you’re about to take an exam or want to boost your memory, eat some nuts or avocado for a snack.
It sounds dramatic, but it’s true. Your lungs are coated with a substance made of saturated fat — the kind found in full-fat dairy, butter, and coconut. If you don’t eat enough saturated fat, your lung health could suffer. Studies have begun to look into links between fat consumption and asthma and have discovered some connections.
Not in the way you’re thinking! Despite how much fat you have on your actual body, the amount of fat you’re eating can affect your perception of body temperature. A telltale sign of dietary fat deprivation is always feeling cold, even when your surroundings are warm.
Fat intake is crucial for keeping your hormones balanced — which, in turn, helps keep your reproductive system healthy. Both men and women use dietary fat to manufacture sex hormones like estrogen and testosterone. In some extreme cases, restriction of dietary fat can result in infertility.
Sure, some fatty foods like burgers and French fries aren’t great for your ticker, but a moderate and sufficient amount of dietary fat is crucial for maintaining heart health. In fact, diets focused on moderate fat consumption such as the Mediterranean diet have been shown in some studies to reduce the likelihood of cardiac arrest and other cardiovascular incidents. Of course, some of this is dependent on the types of fats consumed. Trans fats, for instance, have been shown to negatively affect risk factors for heart disease.
Certain vitamins are “fat-soluble,” meaning dietary fat is necessary in order to fully absorb them through digestion. Without the fat, you’re missing out on vitamins, too, which is why adding some form of fat to every nutritious meal is probably a good idea.
National recommendations have advised limiting intake of fats to control your cholesterol since 1977 — however, some scientists argue that the theory that saturated fats raise your cholesterol has never been proven. These recommendations are based on the fact that LDL cholesterol, also known as “bad” cholesterol, is linked with heart disease and HDL cholesterol, or “good” cholesterol, is linked with a lower heart risk. Saturated fats are linked to elevated levels of LDL, or “bad,” cholesterol. (Though some studies don’t support that idea at all.) There’s another layer to the story, however. It turns out that LDL cholesterol comes in many shapes and sizes. The smaller and denser the cholesterol, the more harmful it is. Saturated fats, such as those found in coconut oil, butter, and milk, can actually convert small, dense, harmful LDL cholesterol to less harmful large cholesterol. Trust us — you want that.
Want glowing skin all year round? Make sure you’re eating enough fats—and not just from avocados. While unsaturated fats, such as those from avocados and olive oil, are important for preventing wrinkles and keeping your skin supple, saturated fats are necessary, too. Both types of fats are used by the body to build new skin cells and keep skin looking fresh.
Your hair is healthiest when it’s properly nourished — it gets most of its support from vitamins, some of which are fat-soluble. Eat more fat to soak up more nutrients your hair needs to grow. Omega-3 fatty acids help to keep your hair shiny, as well.
Not just because fatty foods taste great — dietary fat can actually ward off depression, according to some studies. Fats can help with the production of chemicals like serotonin and dopamine, which can significantly boost your mood. If you want to boost your mood with food, try adding these other foods to your diet, too.
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