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Let go of the myth that fat makes you fat

fat isn't fattening

Frank Lipman, MD, New York City’s health evangelist and go-to functional medicine doc, is battling a wellness and weight-loss myth that still haunts even some of his healthiest patients: The myth that fat makes you fat.

“Good fats are not only good for you but essential for health. It’s the huge amount of gluten, sugar, and chemicals in our food that makes us fat,” says Dr. Lipman. In fact, he wants you to avoid all those “low-fat” foods. “They’re often high in sugar and chemicals,” he says.

Just what makes good fats good for you? “Good fats are essential for proper nerve activity, fat-soluble vitamin absorption, immune-system function, and healthy cell membrane function for your heart, bones, and hormones,” explains Dr. Lipman. (PS: They’re also great for your skin—especially if you’re prone to acne, dry skin, or are having a what-happened-to-my-glow crisis.)

Need a cheat sheet to fats good and bad? Here are the four main types of fats and whether you should eat them or steer clear:

Saturated fats. These come from animal fat and tropical oils like coconut oil and palm oil. “Not all saturated fat is bad! Coconut oil is good, as is MCT oil (an extract used in Bulletproof Coffee and taken as a supplement), and so is butter from grass fed cows and grass fed meats, I believe,” says Dr. Lipman.

Monounsaturated fat. Olive oil, avocado, and most nuts. Eat these! (In fact, studies have linked them to fat loss.)

Polyunsaturated fat, such as omega-3 from fish oils, salmon, trout, and omega-6 fats from vegetable oils. Our bodies can’t make these essential fatty acids—we must get them from food.

Trans fats. These banned fats in New York can be found just across the border in margarine, vegetable shortening, and partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, as well as in fried foods, packaged foods, and candy.

“Trans fats are the real villain, causing far more significant health problems than saturated fat,” says Dr. Lipman. —Melisse Gelula

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More reading: Should you really be cooking with olive oil?