The diet world has been jolted recently by studies suggesting that eating fat is not such a bad thing after all. It might not lead to heart disease and it might not make you gain weight, researchers have argued.
But it all depends on what kind of fat you consume – and how much. Nutritionists have known for years that some kinds of fats are actually beneficial. Some are harmful.
Writing in the September issue of Food Technology magazine, Linda Milo Ohr makes the case for fatty acids and nutritional oils. They can improve memory function, help manage body weight, and contribute to heart health, eye and brain development, and even improved mood.
She singles out 9 fats that she says can enhance, not harm health.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are associated with improved brain development, memory function, eye health, can reduce chances of dementia and depression. They are also widely well-known for their heart health benefits.
Pinolenic acid comes from pine nut oil, which in turn comes from a specific Korean pine tree. Ohr says clinical trials have shown that it can help suppress appetite and promote a feeling of fullness.
Conjugated Linoleic Acid
Conjugated linoleic acid also helps with weight management by helping reduce body fat and increase lean body mass. It's found in many meats and dairy products.
Flaxseed oil is a way to load up on omega-3 fatty acids as well as omega-6 and omega-9 fatty acids. They can be good for your heart and help reduce inflammation.
Hemp seed oil is another source of omega-6 and omega-3 linolenic essential fatty acids. It's also high in vitamin E.
Fish oil is valued for its positive effect on cardiovascular, neurological, and cognitive health.
“A study showed that a canola oil-enriched, low-glycemic-diet improved blood sugar control in type 2 diabetics, especially those with raised systolic blood pressure,” Ohr writes.
Extracted from the seed of the soybean, soybean oil is widely used as a healthy cooking oil.
Although not as much research has been done compared to olive or fish oil, coconut oil is believed to enhance energy, skin health, and dental health.
Fats that can be harmful
While adding these healthy fats to a nutritious diet might be a good thing, there are definitely fats that can have harmful effects, according to doctors at the Mayo Clinic.
Saturated fat is fat that comes mainly from animal sources of food, such as red meat, poultry and full-fat dairy products. Too much can raise total blood cholesterol levels and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels, which can increase your risk of cardiovascular disease. Saturated fat may also increase your risk of type 2 diabetes.
Trans fat occurs naturally in some foods but most are manufactured from oils through a food processing method called partial hydrogenation. The Mayo Clinic cites studies showing that these partially hydrogenated trans fats can increase unhealthy LDL cholesterol and lower healthy high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol. This can also increase your risk of cardiovascular disease.