How You Can Tell Healthy Fat From Bad Fat

Confused about fat? You're not the only one
How You Can Tell Healthy Fat From Bad Fat

Contributor: Jessica Hutchins, MD

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Confused about fat? You’re not the only one. Countless times I’ve heard: “I’m eating so healthy, really watching my fat intake, but still can’t seem to lose weight!”

Since the 1980s when the low-fat craze took hold in the United States, the rate of diabetes and heart disease has skyrocketed. Not exactly the outcome the American Heart Association was looking for. To mask the bland taste of most low-fat processed food, the sugar content was increased. We ended up consuming less fat and way more sugar!

Your body uses fat for fuel and to build cell membranes. Cholesterol and LDL particles are used as a building block for making steroid hormones, too, such as testosterone, progesterone and estrogens.

Healthy fats, especially DHA, an omega-3 fat, help your brain work optimally. They help with mood, memory, concentration, speech and cognition. They are important in regulating the immune system and metabolism too. Healthy fats help lower triglyceride levels, raise HDL or good cholesterol, and lower the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Not all fats are equally healthy

Good sources of healthy fats are fatty fish such as salmon and sardines, flaxseed, hempseed, chia seeds, walnuts, macadamia nuts, sea veggies, pasture-raised eggs and pasture-raised animal products.

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Try to stick with wild fish. Farm-raised fish are only as good as the fish’s diet and living conditions. If they are given inflammatory, genetically modified feed and antibiotics because of crowded living conditions, then the inflammatory fat profile is increased and the omega-3 content is dramatically reduced.

Use good quality unrefined olive oil in cooking, especially cold dishes. The more cloudy and green the olive oil, the better!

Saturated fats, once given a bad rap, can be great sources of fuel for the brain and body. Organic grass-fed butter and unrefined coconut oil are among the best. Anyone heard the Bulletproof Coffee hype? This power drink of organic, mold-free coffee blended with these kinds of butter and coconut oil may be gaining popularity for good reason.

There are fats that will help drive insulin resistance and inflammation, including most of the fats found in processed foods.

More and more people now are aware of the dangers of trans fats, like those found in margarine. Less well known is that most vegetable oils fit into this category and are high in inflammatory fats. The most common include corn oil, soybean oil and safflower oil.

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Are animal fats all bad?

Fat is where toxins tend to be stored in animals. Again, knowing the source of your food is important!

So, the inflammatory profile of fat from a conventionally raised animal living in crowded, filthy conditions being fed genetically modified corn feed is vastly different than fat from an organic, pasture-raised animal living with minimal stress. The goal is to consume a balanced proportion of omega-3 and omega-6 fats. Because we rely so heavily on processed foods, that ratio has become very skewed, way in favor of more inflammatory omega-6 fats.

So remember: Healthy fat doesn’t make you fat, but inflammatory fat consumption contributes to most chronic diseases, including obesity. Steer clear of processed foods. And next time you have your morning cup of coffee, maybe whip it up with some coconut oil instead of a chemical-laden creamer.

This post is based on one of a series of articles produced by U.S. News & World Report in association with the medical experts at Cleveland Clinic.

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