You need fats! But more importantly you need the good fats that are essential to your health and longevity. How much you need is dependant on your lifestyle and health, but the ‘low-fat’ craze has potentially caused more people to become obese and unwell than any other diet craze I am aware of!

Fats are used as one of your body’s primary sources of fuel, in particular for muscular work. The body has the capacity to store more fat as fuel than carbohydrates. This is part of our genetic make-up that helped us survive in times of feast or famine – when there wasn’t a plentiful supply of food, the body used its stored fat for energy.

If you are limiting your healthy fat intake, your metabolism gets confused and will do all sorts of things to make up for this ‘lack’ and will result in potentially unhealthy side effects.

Fats are also needed to cushion your body’s organs and joints, to provide protection against extreme heat or cold, to transport fat-soluble nutrients, and are the building blocks of the human cells.

Killer Fats

You’ve most likely heard of trans-fats or trans fatty acids (TFAs). TFA’s are produced when oils are heated to very high temperatures (such as pan frying or deep frying) or produced by hydrogenation, which turns liquid oil into a harder form like shortening and margarine. Quite simply, the natural, healthy oil in its liquid state is changed on a molecular level by heat or hydrogenation, thus becoming a TFA and harmful to our bodies. TFAs can negatively impact normal heart function, by breaking down cell membranes (allowing harmful molecules to penetrate and damage cells), and by interfering with certain enzyme systems.

Butter vs. Margarine

You’ve read above that hardened fats are a source of the ‘toxic’ TFA’s. That’s exactly what margarine is. My recommendation is to throw away any margarine you have and never to buy it again. If you choose to use butter, it is a healthier choice than margarine but it still has some drawbacks. The good news: the drawbacks of butter are not toxic. Butter is churned to become solid and not hydrogenated. However, butter is a saturated fat and if you are trying to lose body fat, a better choice would be to replace butter with olive oil, canola oil or flax seed oil.

Healthy Fats

Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs) are called Essential because our body can’t produce them so we have to get EFAs from food sources and/or supplements.

There are two essential fatty acids important to cardiovascular health: alpha-linolenic acid (omega-3 fatty acid) and linoleic acid (omega-6 fatty acid).

Most of us do not get enough omega 3 fatty acids in our diet. The best sources for omega-3s are from flax, hemp and fish oils (cold water fish like salmon and herring). The omega-6 fatty acids come from a number of sources including hemp, sunflower, pumpkin and extra-virgin olive oil.

The omega-3s are necessary for optimal health and wellness. They help support cardiovascular health, they nourish your brain, lubricate your joints, and metabolize fat stores for energy (Yes! Omega-3s help your body burn stored fat), assist in tissue repair, and they’re an excellent source of ‘clean calories’ if you are working out to gain lean muscle weight.

There are a number of recommendations for how much of the omega-3 fatty acids to consume in a day. Udo Erasmus in “Fats that Heal, Fats that Kill”, recommends a minimum of 1 teaspoon to a tablespoon per 50 pounds of body weight per day. The higher dose will work for some people depending on their nutritional and health needs. Consult with your doctor or nutritionist to best determine your needs.

You can add flax to your shake, smoothie or pour onto your veggies, brown rice, etc., after they have been cooked. Never cook flax oil as it has a low burn temperature and if you burn it, it becomes toxic.

Olive Oil

Olive oil is an example of an omega-6 fatty acid. You’ve probably heard of the Mediterranean diet. Numerous studies have shown that the Mediterranean region has one of the lowest rates of coronary heart disease. There are a number of reasons for the health and longevity of the people in this region, however the defining component of this diet is the abundant use of olives and olive oil. Olives and olive oil have been associated with a variety of health benefits, including lower incidence of heart disease and certain cancers.

For your everyday cooking, olive oil is a healthy choice. Another factor in olive oil’s favour is that it has a high burn temperature, meaning if you fry food you can cook with olive oil at a much higher temperature before the oil burns.

© 2011 Darren Stehle & Integrated Fitness. All Rights Reserved.

Author's Bio: 

No theories or trends; just a hands-on, Integrated Fitness approach that works.

Darren's approach is truly unique in fitness and health coaching. His work involves a higher level of awareness resulting from both experience and understanding that the ego has no place in the process. Your goals and your successes are your own; Darren's role is to coach you to that place, and to bring out of you what you already possess and to coach you to excellence.