Think all fat is bad for you? Here’s everything you need to know about dietary fat, including how to make healthier choices without sacrificing taste.
What are dietary fats?
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 and brain health. For years we’ve been told that eating fat will add inches to your waistline, raise cholesterol, and cause a myriad of health problems. But now we know that not all fat is the same.
“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, an increased risk of certain diseases and so forth. But “good” fats such as unsaturated fats and omega-3s have the opposite effect. In fact, healthy fats play a huge role in helping you manage your moods, stay on top of your mental game, fight fatigue, and even control your weight.
By understanding the difference between good and bad fats and how to include more healthy fat in your diet, you can improve your mood, boost your energy and well-being, and even lose weight.
Dietary fat and cholesterol
Dietary fat also plays a major role in your cholesterol levels. Cholesterol is a fatty, wax-like substance that your body needs to function properly. In and of itself, cholesterol isn’t bad. But when you get too much of it, it can have a negative impact on your health. As with dietary fat, there are good and bad types of cholesterol.
- HDL cholesterol is the “good” kind of cholesterol found in your blood.
- LDL cholesterol is the “bad” kind.
- The key is to keep LDL levels low and HDL high, which may protect against heart disease and stroke.
- Conversely, high levels of LDL cholesterol can clog arteries and low HDL can be a marker for increased cardiovascular risk.
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.