We’ve all heard the buzz around healthy fats, but do we really understand why fat is healthy for us? Or do we actually understand what a healthy fat is? Wildway products are full of healthy fats from ingredients such as walnuts, cashews, and coconut, and this is a good thing. The word “healthy fat” shouldn’t trigger feelings of confusion like some trendy, diet-culture words can. The key to understanding why and how fat is crucial is knowing the differences between each type of fat and how to choose the right amount.
Fat is an essential macronutrient and plays an important role in your overall health.
A macronutrient is something we need in relatively large amounts to maintain health. Humans need fat1 for the following purposes:
- A source of energy
- A source of essential fatty acids that our body cannot make on their own
- A major component of overall cellular function
- A way to absorb fat soluble vitamins: A, D, E and K
- A way to insulate our bodies and protect vital organs
Experiment with adding some healthy fat to your breakfast in the morning. Including an adequate amount of fat in the morning can help boost your energy levels and help get rid of that brain fog you may be experiencing from your carb heavy meals. Try adding a sprinkle of our grain-free granola on top of a smoothie bowl or make some grain-free pancakes using our hot cereal packets!
Fat can sometimes receive a bad rap because in the past, it has been associated with weight gain and high cholesterol. We’re here to inform you why fat is essential and shouldn’t just be associated with adverse health effects. The key to understanding why and how fat is essential is knowing the differences between each type of fat and how to choose the right amount.
For long-term health, some fats are better than others. Good fats include monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, and saturated fats. Bad ones include industrial-made trans fats. Let’s break it down for you...
Bad Fat: Trans Fat
There are two types of trans fats found in foods: naturally occurring and artificial trans fats. Naturally occurring trans fats are produced in the gut of some animals and foods made from these animals may contain small quantities of these fats, such as milk and meat products. For all you chemistry nerds out there, artificial trans fats (or trans fatty acids) are created in an industrial process that adds hydrogen to liquid vegetable oils to make them more solid. This is known as hydrogenation, which helps prevent oils from becoming rancid.
Trans fats have no known health benefits and have been officially banned in the United States as of May 20192. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) ruled in 2015 that artificial trans fats were unsafe to eat and gave food-makers three years to eliminate them from the food supply, with a deadline of June 18, 2018. The FDA recently granted companies a one-year extension to use artificial trans fats in limited circumstances, including grease for industrial baking pans.
So why did the FDA mandate a ban on trans fats? Why are they bad for you? Trans fats raise your bad (LDL) cholesterol levels and lower your good (HDL) cholesterol levels. Through ingesting trans fats, you’re increasing your risk of developing heart disease and stroke, as well as increasing the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Even small amounts of trans fats can harm health: for every 2% of calories from trans fat consumed daily, the risk of heart disease rises by 23%. A professor of epidemiology and nutrition at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health3, stated the ban on trans fats could reduce the number of people who die from heart disease and curb the incidence of diabetes, dementia, and other metabolic diseases.
So why did companies and restaurants use trans fats if they’re so bad for us? Trans fats are inexpensive4 to produce and also last a long time. They give foods a desirable texture and taste, which can increase the palatability of certain foods and keep you coming back for more. Some restaurants and most fast-food outlets used trans fats to deep-fry foods because oils with trans fats can be used repetitively in commercial fryers. Thank goodness trans fats have been shown the door! And thank goodness here at Wildway we don’t cut corners when it comes to giving you quality and nourishing products.
Wildway Takeaway: Avoid artificial trans fats at all costs! The health consequences are not worth it and trans fats provide no health benefits.
Good Fats: Monounsaturated, Polyunsaturated, and Saturated Fats
Monounsaturated and Polyunsaturated Fats
Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats come from vegetables, nuts, seeds, and fish. Here’s chemistry lesson #2: monounsaturated fats5 are simply fat molecules that have one unsaturated carbon bond in the molecule, this is also called a double bond. Polyunsaturated fats 6 are similar, but contain more than one unsaturated carbon bond in the molecule. Oils that contain mono and polyunsaturated fats are typically liquid at room temperature but start to turn solid when chilled. Olive oil and avocado oil are examples of the types of oil that contain mono or polyunsaturated fats. Nuts and seeds also contain mono or polyunsaturated fats.
So why are mono and polyunsaturated fats good for us?
Mono and polyunsaturated fats can help reduce bad (LDL) cholesterol levels in your blood which can lower your risk of heart disease and stroke. They are also rich in nutrients to help develop and maintain your body’s cells. Foods rich in mono and polyunsaturated fats, such as nuts and seeds, also contribute vitamin E to the diet, an antioxidant vitamin we could all use more of.
Foods rich in polyunsaturated fats provide essential fats that your body needs but can’t produce itself, including omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids. Chemistry lesson #3: the numbers in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids refer to the distance between the beginning of the carbon chain and the first double bond. Both types offer health benefits. Eating polyunsaturated fats in place of highly refined carbohydrates reduces harmful LDL cholesterol and lowers triglycerides. Good sources of omega-3 fatty acids include fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, and nuts and seeds.
Wildway Takeaway: Mono and polyunsaturated fats are “good fats” because they help lower bad cholesterol levels and are rich in nutrients to help develop and maintain your body’s cells. Good thing all Wildway products are chock full of mono and polyunsaturated fats!
One day you hear saturated fats are good and the next you hear they’re bad. What are we supposed to believe? The truth is there are better sources of saturated fats than others and serving size is important.
Chemistry lesson #4 (sorry!): From a chemical standpoint, saturated fats7 are simply fat molecules that have no double bonds between carbon molecules because they are saturated with hydrogen molecules. Saturated fats are typically solid at room temperature, and are naturally occurring in many foods. The majority come mainly from animal sources, including meat and dairy products. Some plant-based foods, such as coconut oil and nuts, contain saturated fats as well.
Saturated fats have received a bad rap in terms of raising cholesterol. There are actually two types of bad LDL cholesterol - Type A and Type B8. When consumption of saturated fats is reduced, only the Type A LDL cholesterol is reduced. Type B LDL is the type of cholesterol that has been more closely linked to heart disease, and they’re generally more controlled by carbohydrate consumption. In fact, in the last 30 years, Americans have lowered their fat consumption by 10 percent, while obesity has doubled9. Again, are saturated fats really the issue? Similar to unsaturated fats, saturated fats can promote brain, cardiovascular, bone, and nervous system health. In fact, the majority of your brain is made up of fat and cholesterol.
The source and serving size of saturated fat influences whether or not it’s “good” for you. A study from the Harvard School of Public Health10 found that there is an association between eating processed meat and heart disease, but there was no association between eating red meat and heart disease. The body loves saturated fat, but not from sources such as hot dogs and processed deli meat. When looking for sources of saturated fats, stick to options such as grass-fed meat and butter, pasture-raised eggs, coconut, and nuts.
Another important factor to consider is serving size of saturated fats. The Cleveland Clinic recommends1 healthy adults should limit their saturated fat intake to no more than 10% of total calories. For a person eating a 2,000 calorie diet, this would be about 22 grams of saturated fat or less per day. However, always consider these are guidelines and everyone's needs are different. Dr. Mary Enig, Ph.D. (the co-writer of The Truth About Saturated Fats), states that having even as much as 50 percent of the fats in your diet as saturated fats can be incredibly healthy for some people. Your body may metabolize fats more effectively than others or you may be a more active individual than others and require more fat intake. It’s best to key into your body’s cues, such as any noticeable digestive symptoms, blood and cholesterol results, or overall energy levels.
Wildway Takeaway: Saturated fats are often overlooked and considered “bad” fats, but they offer a myriad of health benefits, including cardiovascular and brain health. It’s important to consider the source and serving size of saturated fats to maintain the health factor.
In conclusion, fat has a plethora of health benefits and it’s not something we should be afraid of. If you’re looking for a quality source of healthy fats, check out our line of grain free products!