Not all fats are equal.  The importance of choosing healthy fats.

Still fat phobic? Our country is facing an obesity crisis, but is dietary fat really to blame? Of the three macronutrients, fat contains the most energy at 9 calories per gram. However, there are different types of fat, and it depends on what type of fat we eat and what we eat it with, as to how it is processed and used in our bodies.

Types of fats

There are essentially 3 types of fats: unsaturated, saturated, and hydrogenated, with a couple of subcategories.

Unsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature, or oils. There are monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Polyunsaturated fats are classified as Omega-6 or Omega-3.

Saturated fats are solid at room temperature. They are mostly from animals, but coconut and palm oil are saturated fats also.

Hydrogenated fats, also known as trans fats, are chemically altered unsaturated fats that change them from a liquid to a solid.

Choosing healthy fats

Fats play multiple roles in our bodies and we need fat. In fact, Omega-3 fats are considered “essential fatty acids,” meaning we cannot produce them on our own and must obtain them from our diet. Since 1 tablespoon of fat provides 120 calories, it is the macronutrient with the smallest portion sizes.

The top pick is monounsaturated fats from plants such as olives, avocados, and nuts and seeds. When choosing oils, make sure they are cold-pressed and stored in glass, tinted bottles. Nuts and seeds should be raw, toasted, or dry roasted.

Next, when it comes to polyunsaturated fats, we do utilize Omega-6 oils such as canola, sunflower, and safflower, but parts of them are broken down into more inflammatory compounds in our bodies. Omega-3 fatty acids, on the other hand, are broken down into anti-inflammatory compounds. The most bioavailable sources are EPA and DHA that are found in fish and seafood, but ALA and GLA do provide benefits and are found in plant sources such as flax seeds, chia seeds, walnuts, algae, and borage oil.

Limiting saturated fats is recommended by multiple health authorities. Hence, limit, not avoid. Our bodies do still need some saturated fat. However, saturated fat from plant-based coconut does have benefits from the medium-chain triglycerides it contains. MCTs have anti-inflammatory effects, but as with all fats, portions need to be controlled and more is not better.

Fats to Avoid

Avoid trans fats. These fats are chemically altered and turn a healthy fat into a destructive one. Look for the words hydrogenated, fried, and shortening. These are words found on the label that you want to avoid.

How we help

With The Peak at Zenergy now open for the summer, our chef Stacie chooses fresh and local ingredients to create delicious meals to enjoy poolside. Items that include healthy fats are the Mediterranean and Southwestern shareables, the Greek salad, the Peak chicken salad, the Mediterranean pizza, and the plant burger. For the burgers, I would skip the cheese and add guacamole. For a smoothie treat, I suggest choosing the coconut milk option.

Fat is essential as part of a balanced diet. Fats are important for our brain, cardiovascular system, immune system, hormones, gut microbiome, and skin, and they are part of every single cell membrane in our bodies. We just want to make sure the fats we eat are beneficial and healthy.

If you would like more personal help with balancing your diet, consider a consultation with Registered Dietitian, Tina McGrew. Email Wellness Manager Kylon Myers to set up an appointment: