The Skinny on Fat

The Skinny on Fat

Julian Whitaker, MD

Fat has taken on mythical proportions in our society, viewed as either a demon that undermines the quest for a thin body or a savior that magically induces weight loss. In reality, fat is, well, just fat, an essential nutrient with multiple roles in the body.

There are several types of dietary fat, some of them good, some of them bad, and some of them horrendous. Let’s take a look.

Get an Edge With EFAs

Essential fatty acids (EFAs) are, as their name suggests, essential for health. Omega-3 EFAs are the most important, for deficiencies in these vital fats are extremely common. There are two primary omega-3s: docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), a dominant fat in the brain, and eicosapentaeonic acid (EPA), which is a precursor to anti-inflammatory prostaglandins that promote optimal cardiovascular health.

Omega-6 EFAs are also requisite for health. Most nuts, seeds, and vegetable oils contain these fats, while the richest dietary sources of omega-3s are cold-water fish and flaxseed. As a result, our diet is precariously tilted towards omega-6s with resultant imbalances. Make a point to eat omega-3-rich salmon, mackerel, sardines, and other cold-water fish two or three times a week, along with one-fourth cup freshly ground flaxseed daily.

Marvelous Monounsaturated Fats

Monounsaturated fat is the predominant fat in olive oil as well as canola, peanut, and almond oils. Olive oil is particularly healthful, and we recommend it hands down over the other monos. It has a long history of use and has been shown to protect against heart disease by keeping the arteries flexible and guarding against free radical damage.

One of olive oil’s best qualities is that it is relatively stable. Unlike polyunsaturated fats, it can tolerate moderate heat, so it is your best bet for cooking.

Be Picky About Polys

Polyunsaturated fats, which comprise most nut, seed, and vegetable oils, are quite fragile. Exposure to heat and even light and oxygen unleashes oxidative damage in these oils and produces free radicals and other harmful byproducts. Never heat them, and purchase only unrefined, cold-pressed vegetable oils and nut butters, which you’ll find in your health food store.

Truly Terrible Trans Fats

Trans fats are created during the hydrogenation process, when liquid polyunsaturated oils are chemically altered to make them solid and stable. These unnatural fats raise LDL cholesterol, lower protective HDL cholesterol, and have been linked to increased risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, infertility, and obesity. Harvard researchers estimate that trans fats may be responsible for 30,000 deaths a year!

Avoid anything made with partially hydrogenated vegetables oils (margarine, commercially baked goods, etc.) especially French fries and other foods that have been fried in vegetable oils.


  • Diet is an integral element of the Whitaker Wellness Back to Health Program. To make and appointment and learn how our personalized diet program can help you, call (866) 944-8253 or click here.

Modified from Health & Healing with permission from Healthy Directions, LLC. Photocopying, reproduction, or quotation strictly prohibited without written permission from the publisher. To subscribe to Health & Healingclick here.

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