Cashews, Cheese, or Chips? Why Where You Get Your Fats Matters

If we were to look back a few decades ago, we’d see that nutritionists have been obsessed with fats. 

It’s no wonder. 

All the way back in 1961, the first-ever dietary guidelines were released to the public and fat received special attention. 

It was announced that saturated fat raises your blood cholesterol, which could or would lead to a heart attack.  

Nowadays, we have a different approach to fats and their importance to our bodies. 

Research proves that certain fats can be highly beneficial to our health and should be eaten daily. 

 

 

Fats Are Essential for Good Health

Fat is a nutrient that our body needs, just the same as it needs protein or carbohydrates.

We use fat for energy. It also helps us soak up vitamins from food and maintain good heart and brain health. 

Fat also impacts our moods, mental state, and weight. Additionally, it eases inflammation, improves blood cholesterol levels, and plays many other beneficial roles. 

Unfortunately, french fries can’t give you the above effects, although they are dipped and fried in fat. Why? Because there are a few types of fats, and they are all not equal. 

Different Types of Fats

Fats are an essential part of every human’s diet. That’s why knowing ‘the good’ and ‘the bad’ fats are crucial to cultivating good health. 

Let’s start with good fats. 

Unsaturated Fats

Good fats are primarily found in vegetables, nuts, seeds, and fish. There are two broad types of good fats: monounsaturated and polyunsaturated. 

These fats are a bit different in their chemical structure, but both are beneficial to our health. 

Monounsaturated fats are oils that stay liquid when at room temperature. In high concentrations, this type of fat is found in:

  • Olive, peanut, and canola oils
  • Avocados
  • Nuts such as almonds, hazelnuts, and pecans
  • Seeds such as pumpkin and sesame seeds

Polyunsaturated fats have two primary types of fats in them: omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. 

They are essential for the human body because we can’t produce these fatty acids ourselves. We must get it from food. 

Polyunsaturated fats build cell membranes and the covering of nerves. We need them for blood clotting, muscle movement, and inflammation.

Good sources of omega-3 fatty acids:

  • Salmon
  • Mackerel
  • Sardines
  • Flaxseeds 
  • Walnuts

Oils rich in omega-6 fatty acids:

  • Safflower
  • Soybean
  • Sunflower 
  • Walnut
  • Corn

Trans Fats

Trans-fat is the worst fat out there. It is a byproduct of a process called hydrogenation when food makers turn healthy liquid vegetable oil into solid fat, preventing it from going rancid and spoiling. 

Food with trans-fat increases the bad cholesterol and reduces the amount of beneficial cholesterol. 

Also, trans fats create inflammation, contribute to insulin resistance, and are linked to stroke, diabetes, and other chronic conditions. 

Primary trans fat sources are:

  • Commercially-baked foods
  • Packaged snack foods 
  • Stick margarine, vegetable shortening
  • Fried foods

Consuming saturated fats is ok as long as you consume them in moderation.

Saturated Fats

Saturated fats have a terrible reputation, and it comes from the first-ever dietary guidelines. It stated that saturated fats were one of the primary causes of heart disease. 

However, now science and research claim that it’s ok to consume saturated fats in moderate amounts. It is recommended to limit the intake to 10% of your daily calories.

The primary sources of saturated fat are:

  • Cheese
  • Whole and reduced-fat milk, butter
  • Processed meat products (sausage, bacon, beef, hamburgers)
  • Cookies and other grain-based desserts
  • Fast food dishes

 

Tips for Adding More Good Fats to Your Diet

Knowing how essential fats are to the body, it is important to consume them in the right amounts. However, counting every bite of food you eat and macros in them is a real challenge. 

Instead, simply go for a diet rich in vegetables, nuts, and seeds. Add a few portions of fatty fish throughout the week. 

Go for dairy and meat products from time to time and only rarely, or better never, eat fast, fried, and processed foods.

Here are a few tips to increase the amount of simply good fats in your diet:

Eat more avocados. They are full of ‘good’ fats and are neutral in taste, therefore are perfect for many dishes. 

Go for seeds. They are loaded with nutrients, including good fats, and can be a great addition to your salads. 

Use olive oil. This extremely beneficial oil is also very versatile. Use it for cooking or as a salad dressing.

Eat omega-3 fatty acids daily. Choose foods loaded with the fatty acids found in fish or, if you prefer, vegan options: walnuts, ground flax seeds, and flaxseed oil. 

So Is It Cashews, Cheese, or Chips?

Now that we’ve covered the ‘ABC of fats,’ the choice between cashews, cheese, or chips should be obvious. 

If the goal is to get the most out of your foods, go for unsaturated fats. Eat saturated fats in moderation and avoid trans fats at all costs. 

 

FAQ

1. Can people with diabetes eat cashews?

Cashews are a great source of unsaturated fats. Unsaturated fats are needed to build the cell membrane responsible for covering nerves. We also need them for blood clotting, muscle movement, and inflammation.

Also, research shows that a cashew-rich diet has a positive impact on blood pressure and HDL cholesterol levels. The cashews have no adverse effect on blood glucose levels or weight.

2. How does a food pyramid help individuals eat a healthy diet?

A food pyramid is a simple and easy way to eat a healthy diet. It shows the different groups of food and how often we should consume them. Eating the right amount of each food group is considered ‘a balanced diet’.