By: Rick Bellanti – April, 2019
When it comes to healthy eating, fats most always get a bad rap.
Fats are not one size fits all and are not created equal by any means. Some fats are better for you than others, and some fats may even help with your healthy diet goals, but knowing the difference in fats can help you determine which to incorporate in your diet and which to avoid altogether.
Dietary fat, also known as fatty acids, can be found in foods from both plants and animals. Certain fats have been linked to negative effects on heart health, but others have been found to offer significant health benefits. Having some fat in your diet aids in fueling your body with energy, just like proteins and carbohydrates, but consuming too many calories from eating too much fat of any type (the good and bad) will lead to weight gain.
What are good fats vs. bad fats to consume?
Bad fats are also known as saturated fats and should be eaten sparingly. The American Heart Association (AHA) suggests that saturated fat should make up no more than seven percent of one’s daily caloric intake. Also, a diet high in saturated fat may raise your low-density (LDL) cholesterol levels. This will raise your risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
For someone who is on a 2000 calorie diet, saturated fat intake should not exceed 20g. Total fat intake should not be more than 65g. Another good guideline is not to even buy products that contain more than 4g of saturated fat per serving.
Saturated fats are typically solid when at room temperature, like butter, shortening, margarine and become a liquid when heated up. Most saturated fats are also animal fats, like fatty cuts of meat from animals like beef, lamb, pork. Be careful of high fat dairy foods, such as whole milk, butter, ice cream and sour cream. Also, oils like cocoa butter, palm oil and lard.
Trans fats are the worst and should be avoided at all times to stay healthy. They are double trouble when it comes to your health, because they do two things: Trans fats raise your bad cholesterol and lowers your good cholesterol. Trans fat is considered by many doctors to be the worst type of fat you can eat. Some meat and dairy products contain small amounts of naturally occurring trans-fat. But most trans-fat is formed through an industrial process that adds hydrogen to vegetable oil. This partially hydrogenated oil is less likely to spoil, so foods made with it have a longer shelf life.
The manufactured form of trans fat, known as partially hydrogenated oil, is found in a variety of food products, including: Packaged products like chips, cookies, crackers and microwave popcorn, are all bad for you. Fried foods like donuts, french fries and fried chicken can contain trans-fat from the oil used in the cooking process. Nondairy coffee creamer and stick margarines also may contain partially hydrogenated vegetable oils as well.
Foods free of trans fats aren’t automatically good for you. Food manufacturers may have substituted other ingredients for trans-fat that may not be healthy either. Some of these ingredients, such as tropical oils — coconut, palm kernel and palm oils — contain a lot of saturated fat.
The GOOD fats
Doctors consider monounsaturated fat and polyunsaturated fat more “heart-healthy” fats. These are fats that are better choices for your diet. Foods that primarily contain these healthier fats tend to be liquid when they’re at room temperature.
This type of helpful fat is present in a variety of foods and oils. Research has consistently shown that eating foods that contain monounsaturated fat can improve your blood cholesterol level and decrease your risk of cardiovascular disease. These foods include: Avocados, nuts, such as almonds, pecans and cashews, olive oil and almond butter as a few examples.
A certain type of this fat, called omega-3 fatty acids, have been shown to be particularly beneficial for your heart. Omega-3s appear to not only decrease the risk of coronary artery disease, but also help lower blood pressure levels and guard against irregular heartbeats. The following types of fatty fish contain omega-3 fatty acids: herring, salmon, sardines and trout. You can also find omega-3s in flax-seed, walnuts, and sunflower oil, although these contain a less active form of the fat than fish do.
Healthier fats are an important part of your diet, but it’s still crucial to moderate your consumption of them because all fats are high in calories. As a result, it’s a good idea to incorporate foods that contain monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. It’s a strategy that will help your heart and improve your quality of life.
Rick Bellanti is a wellness columnist and is on a journey himself to lose 240lbs, and has lost 160lbs since the start of 2015. If you have any questions or comments, please post them to his Getting Healthy with Rick Bellanti Facebook page and once a month he will address a few of the topics here ◊