Good fats are an important part of a healthy diet. They provide essential fatty acids, keep our skin soft, support brain, heart, and artery function, deliver fat-soluble vitamins, support a healthy blood profile, and are a great source for our body to use as energy.

When we hear the word fat, it usually reminds us of unwanted weight on our bodies that we’d like to get rid of. Many times that’s true, but fat is a much more complex subject than that alone. We actually need fats and can’t live without them. Good fats are an important part of a healthy diet. They provide essential fatty acids, keep our skin soft, support brain, heart, and artery function, deliver fat-soluble vitamins, support a healthy blood profile, and are a great source for our body to use as energy.

Unfortunately, the problem is that the normal American diet is too high in fat. Typically 15 to 30 percent is a good guideline to follow for fat consumption; however, roughly 34 to 40 percent of our calories come from fat. Why? Because they taste so good and are readily available everywhere we go. Fats bring out the flavor of foods and give our mouths and tummies the feeling of satisfaction.

However, friends, I would like to challenge you not to let these feelings be the primary basis for the calories that you consume, but instead, adopt a concept of balance that lets your mental satisfaction be the driving force. There is great pleasure in knowing that your consumption choices are keeping you healthy, active, and strong. Please place high value in the precious benefits you receive from consuming a healthy diet each and every day. It takes a little effort sometimes, but yes, you can find foods that you enjoy, that taste good, and that keep you healthy at the same time.

We have got to remember that fat is only part of the obesity problem that faces our nation right now. Simply put, eating more calories from carbohydrates, fats, proteins, and alcohol than you burn off will lead to weight gain. However, fat does play a significant role in obesity. Fat weighs in at 9 calories per gram, while proteins and carbohydrates each have 4 calories per gram. Alcohol has 7 calories for every gram you consume. It is very easy to overeat fats because they are in many of our favorites, like french fries, processed foods, cakes, cookies, chocolate, ice cream, thick steaks, and cheese.

Please also keep in mind that eating too much (bad fat) does more than just add inches to your waistline. It has been closely associated with increased rates of type 2 diabetes, certain cancers, and heart disease. Choosing the right types of dietary fats to consume is one of the most important factors in reducing the risk for developing heart disease. There seems to be a strong relation between being overweight and many types of cancers, especially breast cancer among postmenopausal women, and colon cancer.

Eating less total fat will not directly lower your cancer risk, but it will help you control your weight, which in turn can reduce your risk of cancer.

There are two basic groups of fats; saturated (bad fat) and unsaturated (good fat). Within each group there are several more types of fats.

The “good fat,” or unsaturated, includes polyunsaturated fatty acids and monounsaturated fats. Both, when eaten in moderation and used to replace saturated or trans fats, can help lower cholesterol levels and reduce your risk for heart disease. Polyunsaturated fats, mostly found in vegetable oils, help lower both blood cholesterol levels and triglyceride levels. One of the most popular omega-3 fatty acids has been associated with wonderful heart healthy benefits when consumed. Omega-3’s are found in fatty fish like salmon, trout, catfish, mackerel, as well as flaxseed and walnuts.

The other “good fats,” or monounsaturated fats, provide a good source of the antioxidant vitamin E, which is a nutrient often lacking in our diets. These “good fats” can also be found in olives, avocados, hazelnuts, almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, and olive, canola, and peanut oils.

Now, how about the two types of “bad fats,” saturated and trans fatty acids? Both should be consumed with the utmost scrutiny, because they can raise cholesterol levels, clog arteries, and increase your risk for heart disease. Saturated fats are found in animal products like meat, poultry skin, high-fat dairy, eggs, and coconut and palm oils.

There are two types of trans fats: the naturally occurring, found in small amounts in dairy and meat; and the artificial kind that occur when liquid oils are hardened into “partially hydrogenated” fats. Natural trans fats are not as big a concern, especially when you choose low-fat options. The real worry is the artificial trans fats. They are used all the time in frying, baked goods, cookies, icings, crackers, packaged snack foods, microwave popcorn, and some margarines. Research has shown that even small amounts of artificial trans fats can increase “bad” or LDL cholesterol and decrease the “good” or HDL cholesterol. Limiting these trans fats to less than 2 grams per day and managing our overall fat intake to a minimum are two good goals for us all to strive for.

I challenge you to become better label readers and choose a diet that is rich in lean proteins, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. Try replacing fattier sauces with vinegars, mustards and lemon juice. See if you can find a light or reduced fat salad dressing that is appealing to your taste buds.

There are many things you can do to improve your health each and every day. All you have to do is turn the “I should” into “I do,” and improved health and performance will be yours for the taking, along with all of its many benefits.

Until next week, stay heart healthy and please make it a healthy and nutritious day!

To get started on healthy nutrition products for weight loss, sports performance, general wellness, and active energy, please call Reggie’s Personal Training and Nutrition, 104 E. Main, Downtown Shawnee, or message Reggie on Facebook at Reggie’s Personal Training and Nutrition! Ask about the 24 challenge bundle that jumpstarts weight loss, builds muscle, tones you up and improves your health!

Reggie Grovey is a local 21-year fitness professional and nationally certified personal trainer and Advocare Nutrition independent distributor.