Monday Medical: The big, fat truth |

Monday Medical: The big, fat truth

Susan Cunningham/For Steamboat Today

If you go

What: Real Food: Healthy Fats

When: Noon, Wednesday, Sept. 16

Where: Yampa Valley Medical Center Conference Room 1

Cost: Free

For a long time, fat got a bad rap — think the low-fat diet craze of the ’80s and ’90s. Since then, it’s had a bit of a comeback, with some diets even allowing fatty meats at every meal.

All this talk about fat can leave one confused. But we don’t have to be, according to Cara Marrs, registered dietician and nutritionist at Yampa Valley Medical Center.

“For a long time, people have really thought of fat as the enemy,” Marrs said. “There is this fat phobia which we need to get rid of. It’s not about no carb or no fat — it’s all about a balance.”

Marrs will speak about healthy fats during this week’s Real Food talk. Below are four things to know about fat:

• We need fat: Fats play a variety of beneficial roles in our bodies. Fats provide energy, have anti-inflammatory properties, promote satiety, give flavor to meals, provide phytochemicals, play a role in immunity, support brain health, help with hormones and can increase good cholesterol.

“Fat is important for our skin, our joints and really for everything,” Marrs said.

There’s no question fat is a necessary part of any diet. Instead, the question is which types of fats are best.

• Avoid trans fats: “The fats you absolutely don’t want any of are trans fats,” Marrs said. “We absolutely know that they are incredibly bad.”

Trans fats, or trans fatty acids, are vegetable oils that have been chemically altered for increased stability to give foods a longer shelf life. Trans fats can be found in processed foods like crackers, chips, fast food, salad dressings and even nut butters.

To avoid trans fats, read every label and stay away from foods with hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils.

• Limit saturated fats: Saturated fats are found in meats, such as sausage, bacon and ground beef and dairy products, such as whole milk and butter. While coconut oil contains saturated fats, it can also have health benefits and is great for high temperature cooking. The key with these fats is moderation.

For meats and dairy products, Marrs recommends buying the highest quality possible, and eating less of them.

“It’s not that we can’t eat butter,” Marrs said. “Butter is great. It’s how much you are having.”

• Enjoy unsaturated fats: Unsaturated fats are found in all types of seeds and nuts, as well as fruits, such as avocado and olives. Fatty fish, including salmon, tuna and mackerel, are also a source of unsaturated fat. Olive, walnut and flax oils can be used for salad dressings or drizzling over hummus and dips, while peanut and sesame oils can be used for higher temperature cooking.

“Don’t be afraid of having these fats,” Marrs said. For many people, she recommends healthy unsaturated fats at every meal.

“We really want to make sure that the unsaturated fats are the majority, and you have enough of them,” Marrs said.

As with most everything, balance is key. Fats are high in calories: Eat too many, and you either have more calories than you need or are replacing other healthy sources of calories, such as vegetables.

It’s important to remember, everybody is different. Depending on other health conditions, some people may need to limit fats, while others may need to increase them.

“There’s always an individual component,” Marrs said.

Food, Marrs said, is the best medicine out there. But it’s also important to enjoy it — and that means including healthy fats.

“Food is one of the best things in life,” she said. “Fat lends flavor and makes things taste good. We don’t want to eliminate it.”

Susan Cunningham writes for Yampa Valley Medical Center. She can be reached at

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