Written by Joe Suppes

Get the Skinny on Fat

Is fat good or is fat bad?  In America over the last 50 years this question has become more difficult to answer.  Part of the issue is that there is not one statement that can be made that would take into account the complexity of what fat is and what it can do in the body.

For all natural forms of fat it is good to stick to the addage- everything in moderation.  I believe this issue of fat being good or bad is most properly addressed by the balance of foods in the diet.  If a diet is primarily composed of animal based foods then saturated fat becomes a fat that can have negative side effects.

Bad Fat

Too much saturated fat can lead to an overabundance of calories which can contribute to obesity.  An excess of saturated fat can also lead to elevated cholesterol levels.  In turn, high cholesterol can lead to heart disease.  It is because of these two issues that the government and health athorities began recommending people decrease fat in the diet. 

Good Fat

These experts were not always specific about what type of fat to decrease and many people got the impression that all fat is bad.  It turns out that there are some fats that are beneficial.  Most plant based foods contain what are called essential fats, fats that our body can’t operate without.

Let the Good Outweigh the Bad

There are diets which are high in fat and heart healthy.  The Mediterranean diet, for example, derives 40% of calories from fat, whereas the typical American diet derives 33% of calories from fat.  This diet has been well studied and shows great benefits for the heart.  The Mediteranean diet consists of beans, whole grains, nuts, seeds, potatoes, fruits and vegetables.  It contains some fish, poultry, dairy products and olive oil.  Very little red meat and eggs are eaten.

While we should not overindulge in plant-based fatty foods, it is important to find a balance in the amount of fats from plants sources and animal sources we consumed.

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