Linking Healthy Fats & Diabetes: Maximize the Benefits for Your Body and Mind
There are different types of fats out there in the world of nutrition, some better than others. Healthy fats are an essential piece of anyone’s diet. They help the body to function properly and help our organs do their job. Unhealthy fats, such as Trans fats, raise the cholesterol in our bodies (LDL cholesterol). When there is too much LDL cholesterol it can lead to other issues such as heart attack or a stroke. Unhealthy fats also increase the risk of obesity, type II diabetes, and heart disease. While unhealthy fats consumed in excess can lead to negative consequences, there is a light at the end of the tunnel! We’re here to discuss the different types of fats and how they can help to improve your overall health.
The Bad: Trans Fats
The #1 thing everyone knows is that we shouldn’t eat processed foods. Trans fats are created through processing. This is to prevent the fat from going rancid through a process known as hydrogenation. Sounds appetizing, right? Trans fats have zero health benefits. Did you know that they were actually banned throughout the United States? Trans fats are lurking in some of the most eaten foods in the US. Yes, Trans Fats were banned in the US, but there’s a little catch. If there is less than 1% Trans Fats in a product, the FDA does not require the manufacturer to put it on the label. Even something containing less than 0.5% of Trans Fat can still have horrible health effects should we choose to consume it.
Known foods to contain Trans Fats:
- Cookies, donuts, and pastries – especially the ones with frosting
- Frozen pizza
- Frozen breakfast sandwiches
- Microwave popcorn
- Fried fast food
The Okay: Saturated Fats
Just the term saturated makes us want to stay away. In this case, it means that each carbon atom in it’s atomic makeup is saturated with hydrogen atoms. Saturated fats have not been directly linked to an increased risk of heart disease. Yet, when consumed in excess LDL cholesterol tends to rise within the body and can cause many issues. Like most things in life, keep within moderation. Eating a well-balanced diet will prevent the development of any avoidable complications.
Examples of Saturated Fats include:
- Red meat
- Whole milk and other dairy products
- Cream and butter
- Processed meats
The Good: Monounsaturated & Polyunsaturated Fats
These types of fats come from very heart-healthy sources. The chemical difference here is that there are fewer hydrogen atoms bonding to carbons in their structural makeup. Unlike all others included in this post, Unsaturated Fats are liquid at room temperature, not solid. To break it down even further:
Studies have shown that people who consume a higher amount of Monounsaturated Fat in their diet (like extra virgin olive oil) had a lower risk of heart disease than those who consumed more Saturated or Trans Fats. Monounsaturated Fats also lower levels of LDL cholesterol. They also maintain a healthy level within the body. Monounsaturated Fats also help to develop and maintain cells. This helps the body to function properly by keeping organs healthy.
Examples of Monounsaturated Fats include:
- Olive oil (extra virgin is always best)
- Sunflower oil
- Peanut butter
- Peanut oil
This type of fat is needed throughout the body to keep it functioning. They are also known as essential fats, but we can’t actually produce them ourselves! Polyunsaturated Fats are used for building and rebuilding cell membranes, covering nerves, blood clotting, muscle movement, and inflammation for the wound healing process. Like Monounsaturated Fats, Polyunsaturated Fats lower LDL cholesterol within the body and improve the cholesterol profile in general. Along with this, they also lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of developing heart disease or stroke. As Polyunsaturated Fats lower LDL cholesterol, they raise HDL cholesterol (the good kind), thus balancing out cholesterol levels throughout the body.
Examples of Polyunsaturated Fats include:
- Nuts and seeds
- Olive oil
- Corn oil
- Safflower oil
Now that we know a little bit more about the different types of fats in the world, how can they help diabetes? Since carbohydrates are the very thing that often causes the body to become desensitized to insulin levels, the most effective thing you can do in managing your diabetes is to cut them down. We recommend getting most of your carbohydrates from sources such as fruits and vegetables (more veggies as fruits are high in sugar!).
Let’s discuss the perks
Healthy fats are satiating and will keep the body feeling fuller for longer. If you’re feeling hungry but don’t want to have a large meal, instead of reaching for the banana or a roll, grab half a banana and a handful of almonds. The healthy fat in the almonds will keep you full for a longer period of time and give the body a break as it isn’t trying to compensate for the sugar.
Healthy fats promote nutrient absorption. While you may consume a diet rich in vitamins by eating your leafy greens, the body can’t do anything with those nutrients unless paired with enough healthy fat to absorb into the bloodstream. One of the reasons most vitamins come with the recommendation to be taken with food is that with a well-balanced diet rich in healthy fats, they will do their job quicker and more efficiently.
Healthy fats improve brain function and hormone production. Essential for nerve health and the preservation of the myelin sheath in the brain, healthy fats improve cognitive function and memory, while also preventing memory loss. Improved brain function can lead to a higher quality of life, reduced stress, and a reduction in various other symptoms commonly experienced with diabetes. When it comes to hormone production, this can be critical for someone with diabetes as hormone regulation leads to emotional stability, higher energy, and a decrease in food cravings.
Everybody is different but blood sugar generally stabilizes easier when there is more healthy fat included in the diet than carbohydrates, including slow-digesting healthier choices. Definitely still get your high intake of vegetables. Sauté them in healthy oils like avocado, safflower, or olive oil to get that healthy fat boost! Eat a diet rich in fatty fish, lean protein, nuts and seeds, and greens. You will be well on your way to a happier and healthier life, all while managing or preventing diabetes.