Dietary fat has always been a hot topic for debate. It's good one day, bad the next. From the emergence of the Atkins diet several decades ago to the fat-free craze in the early 90s, dietary fat has been alternately embraced by many and shunned by others.
It’s safe to say that at least amidst all of the confusion, there is agreement among most experts that quality is crucial and we have to shift our focus away from simply "fat is good" or "fat is bad." Sure, there is still some debate about quality fat—some say butter is the new healthy food and coconut oil is a healthy saturated fat. But what’s true? And why can’t we all just get along?
So here to sort through all the hype is what I'm calling the "Fit Fat Guide," a step-by-step guide of what to choose, and what to lose.
Dietary Fat 101
First things first, artificial trans fat is dangerous. It increases your risk of heart disease. It may be tied to causing an increase in dangerous belly fat, which makes it doubly bad, and so much more. So anytime you see the word hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated on a food ingredient list, put the item back on the shelf!
There's another fat that is just as bad as trans fat, and it may surprise you. It's soybean oil. Though you may not use soybean oil in and of itself, it's in many packaged, processed products. Don't believe me? Check out most foods in your cabinets and refrigerator.
Why the alarm over such a common oil used in so many food products? The fat within soybean oil is mainly an omega-6 fat. And this is dangerous for many reasons. First, it increases inflammation throughout the body; inflammation is the underlying issue for most diseases. And too much omega-6 fats “block” the crucial omega-3 fats. So nix the omega-6s and eat the omega-3s.
In plain English that means avoiding ingredients like soybean oil, sunflower oil, corn oil, vegetable oil, and most processed foods (including many salad dressings). Instead, swap those for olive oil, canola oil, quality fish oil, fish, nuts and flax.
Without trying to sound alarming, a recent report suggested omega-3 fat deficiency causes 96,000 deaths per year (only behind high salt intake for dietary causes of death) and above trans fat intake, which I mentioned earlier.
I always like to focus on what to add to the diet, rather than what to take away...
...So, step 1: Add a quality omega-3 fish oil product like Nordic Naturals to the diet. Step 2: Replace the less healthy omega-6 fats mentioned above with some higher-quality fat choices I listed.
Doing both of these can seriously improve your health and fortunately, and they're easy steps to implement.
Dr. Christopher Mohr, PhD RD is a nutrition spokesperson and consultant to a number of media outlets. He is also the Sports Nutritionist for Under Armour’s TNP Training Council. His weekly health segment can be heard on WHAS radio in Louisville and often appears on TV as a nutritional guest expert, including an appearance with Chef Emeril Lagasse. He is a sought out nutrition expert who has written over 500 articles for consumer publications, such as Men’s Fitness, Weight Watchers, Men’s Health and Fitness, to name a few.