Just a Big Fat Misundersatnding:
Did you know…Fats are the best source of energy your body can get? So why does the little guy (no pun intended) get such a bad rap?
Well, despite what you may have been told, fats are an important part of a healthy diet. They are composed of building blocks called fatty acids, which fall into three main categories: saturated, polyunsaturated and monounsaturated. As a matter of fact, healthy fats like polyunsaturated and monounsaturated play a huge role in helping you manage your moods, stay on top of your mental game, fight fatigue, and even control your weight. Saturated fats and Trans fats are called “bad fats” because they increase your risk of disease and elevate cholesterol.
Polyunsaturated – Found in things like Fatty fish (salmon, tuna, mackerel, herring, trout, and sardines), walnuts, soybeans, and safflower and sunflower oils. This type of fat may help lower total cholesterol.
Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of polyunsaturated fat. While all types of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are good for you, omega-3 fats are proving to be especially beneficial. Research has shown that they can:
- Prevent and reduce the symptoms of depression
- Protect against memory loss and dementia
- Reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, and cancer
- Ease arthritis, joint pain, and inflammatory skin conditions
- Support a healthy pregnancy
Monounsaturated – Found in avocados, peanut butter, and vegetable and nut oils, such as olive, peanut and canola. They can help lower LDL or bad cholesterol without lowering HDL, good cholesterol.
Most foods are a combination of all 3 fatty acid types; one is typically the dominant type which therefore dictates its classification.
Saturated – Found mainly in animal and dairy products, such as whole milk, cheese, beef, veal, lamb, pork and ham. Also, you will find this type of fat in some oils, such as coconut, palm kernel and vegetable shortening. Saturated fat is used by the liver to make cholesterol, which is involved in the production of hormones such as testosterone. Remember, you need some fat in your diet to keep your body’s hormone production where it should be.
Trans fats – These occur when polyunsaturated oils are altered through hydrogenation, a process used to harden liquid vegetable oils into solid foods like margarine and shortening. They are most common in commercially-baked pastries, cookies, doughnuts, muffins, cakes, pizza dough and processed foods.
Appearance-wise, saturated fats and Trans fats tend to be solid at room temperature (think of butter or traditional stick margarine).
Guidelines for choosing healthy fats
With so many different sources of dietary fat—some good and some bad—the choices can get confusing. But the bottom line is simple: don’t go no-fat, go good fat.
If you are concerned about your weight or heart health, rather than avoiding fat in your diet, try replacing saturated fats and trans fats with good fats. This might mean replacing some of the meat you eat with beans and legumes, or using olive oil rather than butter.
Try to eliminate Trans fats from your diet. Check food labels for Trans fats. Avoiding commercially-baked goods goes a long way. Also limit fast food.
Limit your intake of Saturated fats by cutting back on red meat and full-fat dairy foods. Try replacing red meat with beans, nuts, poultry, and fish whenever possible, and switch from whole milk to lower fat versions.
Eat omega-3 fats every day. Good sources include fish, walnuts, ground flax seeds, flaxseed oil, canola oil, and soybean oil.