Macro Myths: Fats
Content by: Jamie Rinaldi RD LD
Evaluate some of the most common misconceptions about fat. What is good and what is bad?
Fat is a macronutrient that consumers have misperceptions about, as even the most prominent health agencies frequently change the position on nutrient value.
In the 1990s, fat was considered a nutrient of concern. Nuts, seeds, oils, and avocados were bad. Nutrition experts later explained that not all fat is bad, just saturated fat. More recently, we have come to find that not all saturated fat is bad. In fact, much of the saturated fat in dairy products is associated with lower risks of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and many cancers.
High saturated fat coconut products are trendy for being nutritionally superior; however, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and most other respected nutrition experts disagree. Research in the early 2000s fueled this myth due to the benefit of medium chain fatty acids, which are found in coconut. A very small percentage of the fatty acids in coconut are actually medium chain, with the majority being saturated fatty acids. This is evident by its solid state at room temperature and liquid state when heated.
The biggest question regarding fat is cholesterol. Eggs become a big focus. Are they bad? Are they good?
In the past, there was an assumption that cholesterol in food contributed to higher levels of blood cholesterol and increased the risk of heart disease. While researchers claim cholesterol in the diet poses little risk, many now believe moderate consumption offers health protection. Egg yolks do contain small amounts of saturated fat, but also contain other beneficial nutrients like choline, vitamin A, folate, B vitamins and vitamin D.
NOTE: Greater amounts of cholesterol come with the foods often paired with eggs, such as bacon, sausage and pancakes!
Overall, it is best to avoid saturated and trans fats. These foods include: fatty meat, whole milk, butter, coconut oil, processed baked goods, processed snack foods and fried foods. Instead, choose monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats: avocados, peanut butter, olive oil, salmon, chia seeds.