FAT—the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
Nutrition in fat? Most foods contain several different kinds of fat, but some are better for your health than others are. And yes, there is nutrition in fat; and no, you don’t need to completely eliminate all fat from your diet. In fact some fatty acids are essential nutrients, meaning that they can’t be produced in the body from other compounds and need to be consumed in small amounts.
Dietary fat is the most concentrated source of calories (nine calories per gram of fat compared with four calories per gram for protein and carbohydrates). Fat is necessary for a variety of reasons—it helps absorb the fat-soluble vitamins (A,D,E and K), is needed for growth and metabolism, and healthy skin and hair. Fat helps us feel fuller, and prevents us from being hungry.
The fats in the foods you eat should not total more than 25–30 percent of the calories you eat in a given day, and the majority of those fats should be monounsaturated or polyunsaturated, instead of saturated fats and/or trans fats.
Use this guide to help you make educated decisions on the dietary fat you eat, and to enjoy it—in moderation of course.
The GOOD Dietary Fats
Monounsaturated fat–This is a type of fat found in a variety of foods and oils. Studies show that eating foods rich in monounsaturated fats improves blood cholesterol levels, reduces triglycerides level, (triglyceride is a kind of circulating fat found in cholesterol and plague), and slows down the process of plague formation in coronary arteries.
Examples of foods high in monounsaturated fats include vegetable oils such as olive oil, canola oil, peanut oil, sunflower oil and sesame oil. Other sources include avocados, peanut butter, and many nuts and seeds.
TIPS– Cook in oils that are high in monounsaturated fats such as canola oil and olive oil. Replace saturated fat with a spread containing olive or canola oil.
Polyunsaturated fat–This fat is found mostly in plant-based foods and oils. Evidence shows that eating foods rich in polyunsaturated fats improves blood cholesterol levels, and helps decrease the risk of type 2 diabetes. One type of polyunsaturated fat, omega-3 fatty acids can help prevent heart disease.
Foods high in polyunsaturated fat include a number of vegetable oils, including soybean oil, corn oil and safflower oil, as well as fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, herring and trout. Other sources include some nuts and seeds such as walnuts and sunflower seeds. Aim to get most of your polyunsaturated fat from fish.
The BAD Dietary Fat
Saturated fat–this is a type of fat that comes mainly from animal sources of food. Saturated fat clogs arteries, raises total blood cholesterol levels and bad (LDL) cholesterol levels—all of which can increase your risk of cardiovascular disease.
Food sources of saturated fat are chicken fat, beef fat, vegetable shortening, butter, lard, and palm and coconut oil.
You’ve probably heard of hydrogenated vegetable oil. Bad stuff….Processed food products such as biscuits, cakes, tarts, and pastries are made using this hardened oil, a form of saturated fat.
We have to have a life, but please eat sparingly.
The UGLY Dietary Fat
Trans Fat—these man-made fats are the key to our growing obesity problem. Originally “made” to increase the shelf like of food products, such as cookies, these bad boys have a lousy reputation for reducing, HDL (good cholesterol), and increasing bad cholesterol (LDL). Such an imbalance of HDL and LDL increases the risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and arthritis.
Trans fats are found in commercially processed foods, fast food, doughnuts and other fried foods.
Do to a recent change announced in labeling rules, now trans fats will be required on food labels.
Stay away from those French fries—do you really want to eat something that’s synthetic??