A low saturated fat diet reduces inflammatory response and obesity-related disease, this according to new research. You may have heard the Mediterranean diet is beneficial, and a lot of that has to do with it being low in saturated fats.
The Mediterranean diet is based on healthy fats, lean meat, fish and plenty of fruits and vegetables. Previous research has found the Mediterranean diet to be beneficial for brain health, so it should be of no surprise that it is beneficial in reducing inflammatory response and obesity-related diseases as well.
A diet high in saturated fats has long been hailed as bad. Saturated fat has been linked with an increase in cholesterol, which can contribute to heart disease. Additionally, foods that are high in saturated fats also generally have high amounts of calories, meaning they can also contribute to weight gain and obesity.
The new study explores more about the benefits of the Mediterranean diet and the importance of consuming a low saturated fat diet for good health.
Palmitic acid in high saturated fat diet increases inflammatory response
Researchers from the University of Vermont College of Medicine found palmitic acid in high saturated fat diets increases inflammatory response. Furthermore, adhering to a low saturated fat diet, like the Mediterranean diet, can decrease inflammatory response.
Lead author, C. Lawrence Kien, said, “It has been recognized that obesity – a disorder characterized by abnormally high accumulation of fats in the body – and an unhealthy diet can increase the risk of chronic metabolic diseases such as atherosclerosis, type 2 diabetes, and Alzheimer’s disease, but not in everyone.”
Inflammation is a normal response the immune system has as a means of protecting itself. Environmental, dietary and internal compounds can contribute to inflammation, which can lead to side effects and infection.
Saturated fat has been shown to affect the metabolism, therefore, inflammation is often seen with metabolic diseases. Kien added, “Scientists have strived to understand the effects of dietary fats on inflammation by studying isolated cells and animal model systems.”
In comparative studies Kien and his team observed the metabolic effects of palmitic acid and oleic acid. A high palmitic acid diet was shown to have more inflammatory markers and even impaired insulin. The same diet was also seen to reduce physical activity and increase anger.
Kien said, “Ultimately, we would like to understand how these dietary fats behave – both shortly after ingestion, as well as when stored in adipose tissue as a consequence of many months of ingestion – and thus contribute to inflammation and the risk of metabolic disease,” He then concluded, “In other words, habitual diet and especially the type of fat ingested may determine, in part, the risks associated with obesity. It is important to acknowledge that other factors – for example, physical activity – and other features of complex diets will determine how persistent, high intake of saturated fat will impact health.”
Healthy and unhealthy dietary fats
Often people fear the term fat, but that is simply because they don’t understand it. There are good and bad types of fat – the idea is to consume the good and rid ourselves of the bad. Good fats consist of monounsaturated, polyunsaturated and omega-3 fatty acids. Bad fats are saturated and trans fats.
Polyunsaturated fat: Mainly found in plant-based foods and oil. It, too, can improve cholesterol and may help reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes.
Omega-3 fatty acids: Found in fatty fish, omega-3s are another type of polyunsaturated fat. Omega-3 has heart benefits like protecting you against heart disease and irregular heart rates.
Saturated fat: Promotes bad cholesterol and can contribute to weight gain because it is often found in unhealthy food options. Bad cholesterol, too, can increase your risk of heart disease.
Trans fat: Found in oils which go through a process known as partial hydrogenation. Trans fats, too, can increase bad cholesterol and raise your risk of cardiovascular disease.
Lowering saturated (bad) fats from your diet
The FDA recently put a ban on trans fat, so you can now more easily eat food without worry about them. Unfortunately, saturated fat is also found in natural foods, so it can’t be completely banned. For this reason it’s important to become mindful of the foods you eat, and learn to recognize when saturated fats are present to reduce your intake of them.
Here are some tips to help you reduce saturated fats in your diet.
- Know which foods contain saturated fats: high fat cuts of meat, chicken with skin, whole dairy products, butter, cheese, ice cream, palm and coconut oil, lard, baked goods, fried foods, snack foods, solid foods, pre-mixed products
- Switch to healthy fat cooking oils – olive oil
- Eat less red meat
- Remove skin from chicken
- Bake, broil and grill rather than frying
- Avoid breaded meat and vegetables – especially fried
- Choose low fat milks and cheeses
- Avoid cream and cheese sauces – or put them on the side
- Avoid fast food
How to get good fats in your diet
If you want better health, incorporate more good fats into your diet, like monounsaturated fats, polyunsaturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids. If you’re not sure how to boost your good fat intake, here are some tips:
- Cook with olive oil
- Eat more avocados
- Eat more nuts
- Snack on olives
- Dress your own salad
- Eat more fatty fish
Sources of healthy fats
Here is a list of healthy fats so you can make better choices and healthier swaps.
- Olive oil
- Canola oil
- Sunflower oil
- Peanut oil
- Sesame oil
- Peanut butter, almond butter
- Soybean oil
- Corn oil
- Safflower oil
- Seeds – sunflower, sesame
- Fatty fish
You don’t need to be scared of fat – in fact our body actually requires it. Just be aware that there are good and bad options out there, so the trick is to stick with the good ones.
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