All About Fats

Recent science has discovered that fats are not just good for us: Consuming healthy fats can lower our risk of disease and help us lose weight.

| January/February 2014

  • Research indicates that saturated fats such as those in cheese and other animal products may be better for us than we once thought.
    Photo By Thomas Gibson
  • Consuming healthy fats like nuts and unfiltered oils can lower our risk of disease and help us lose weight.
    Photo By Thomas Gibson
  • Most nuts and seeds are good sources of superhealthy monounsaturated fats.
    Photo By Thomas Gibson

Fat is a macronutrient—emphasis on nutrient. All living things need fat. For optimal functioning, our brains must be more than half fat. We need fat to make and nourish cells; cushion and protect organs and nerves; store vitamins and absorb minerals; and transport hormones and other nutrients throughout our blood. We also need fat for energy.

For a list of good fats see our article 12 Healthy Fats List.

So why are we so afraid of this essential nutrient?

In his books, Good Calories, Bad Calories and Why We Get Fat, investigative science journalist Gary Taubes outlines the trajectory that led us to believe fats are bad for us, and saturated fats, even worse. For detailed analysis of the theories that proposed fat to be bad and the research that has thoroughly debunked those theories, you can’t go wrong with Taubes’ books. Here’s the gist:

In the 1950s, a small but influential group of health professionals linked dietary fat to heart disease. Eventually the American Heart Association, Congress, the USDA and the National Institutes of Health followed suit. By the 1980s, an entire industry had grown up around nonfat and low-fat foods. The low-fat diets of the next two decades were supposed to help people lose weight and reduce their risk of heart disease.

Now consider this: In the 1960s, the calories in the average American diet were nearly half from fat. Today, that number has decreased to about one-third of our calories. Back in the 60s, only 13 percent of Americans were obese. Today, more than a full third of American adults are obese. If looking to the past isn’t enough validation that lowering fat intake isn’t the answer, recent research shows that a diet in which half the calories are fat-derived is not linked to weight gain and disease.

Assessing a mountain of science on diet for more than a decade led Taubes to form this conclusion:

6/17/2014 9:02:10 AM

What is the most healthy oil for baking?? I use mostly olive oil for other cooking, but am unsure of the best choice for baking.

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