Can Some Fats be Good for Your Diet?

Are you afraid of fats? Until recently, fat in foods has been vilified in America. For decades, we were told that cutting even healthy fats out of the diet would help us get the body we want. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Our bodies need fat—more specifically, they need healthy fats. The truth is, according to Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator, Tiffany Rios of Shore Physicians Group, “good” fats can lower cholesterol levels, reduce inflammation, promote satiety, and boost brain function. These healthy fats mostly come from unprocessed sources that are high in unsaturated fats as well as omega-3 fatty acids, such as avocados, extra virgin olive oil, nuts, seeds, and wild caught salmon.

Not all fats are the same
The rap on fat is that it will add inches to your waistline, raise cholesterol and lead to a long list of health problems. Fat is a type of nutrient, and just like protein and carbohydrates, your body needs some fat for energy, to absorb vitamins, and to protect your heart.

“Bad” fats, such as artificial trans fats and saturated fats, are guilty of the unhealthy things all fats have been blamed for—weight gain, clogged arteries, and an increased risk of certain diseases.

“Healthy fats are an essential component of a healthy diet. In fact, they are required in order to properly absorb fat soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K,” said Rios. “What’s more, our bodies synthesize many fats but there are two types of fatty acids that your body is unable to synthesize: linoleic acid (omega-6 fatty acid) and alpha-linolenic acid (omega-3 fatty acid). These are called ’essential fatty acids’ because, unlike other fats, our bodies cannot create them and we must get them from our diet.”

The bad and even some good about cholesterol
It helps to understand the difference between good and bad fats and how to include healthier fats in your diet and reduce the bad fat. Dietary fat also plays a major role in cholesterol levels. Cholesterol by itself is not bad. It is a fatty, wax-like substance that the body needs to function properly. But too much of it can have a negative health impact. As with dietary fat, there are good and bad types of cholesterol.

High density lipoproteins or HDL cholesterol is the “good” kind of cholesterol found in blood. The HDL cholesterol is good because it carries cholesterol from other parts of the body back to the liver. The liver then removes cholesterol from the body. According to Harvard Health, an HDL cholesterol of 60 mg/dL or higher gives some protection against heart disease.

Low density lipoproteins or LDL cholesterol is the “bad” kind. Patients with elevated LDL levels may have cholesterol clogged arteries and may have an increased cardiovascular risk. The key is to keep LDL levels low and HDL high, which may protect against heart disease and stroke.

Fats influence cholesterol levels
Rather than the amount of cholesterol you eat, the biggest influence on your cholesterol levels is the type of fats you consume. So instead of counting cholesterol, it’s important to focus on replacing bad fats with good fats. When Rios is creating a dietary plan for her patients, she includes some fats.

“As part of a heart healthy dietary plan I recommend a diet high in unsaturated fats and moderate in healthy types of saturated fats. Avocados, nuts and seeds are mainly unsaturated while fats like coconut oil are saturated. Despite its saturated association, coconut oil is also classified as a medium chain triglyceride and the method in which it processes through the liver does not allow for it to be stored like most saturated fats, making it a healthy alternative to some more saturated oils.”

While every dietary plan that Rios creates for her patients is individualized, the registered dietitian has some go-to saturated fats that have worked well, including grass fed beef, coconut oil, 85% dark chocolate, pasture-raised eggs and chicken.

To make an appointment with Tiffany Rios RD, CDE for a personalized dietary plan or healthy assistance managing your diabetes, call 609-365-5300. The office is located at 2605 Shore Road in Northfield..