Which Fats Should You Be Eating?

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Recently, fat has gotten a bad rap. Fat has an undeserved reputation as a diet food that is bad for weight loss and health. But the fact is, everyone needs a little fat in their diet. Not just any fat, though—the type of fat is important because it not only affects your overall health, it also influences your cholesterol levels and heart health. Fats helps nutrient absorption, nerve transmission, maintaining cell membrane integrity etc. However, when consumed in excess amount, fats contribute to weight gain, heart disease and certain types of cancer. Fats are not created equal. Some fats promote your health positively while others increase your risks of heart disease. So, which fats should you eat?

The Good Fat

By good fat, it means non-saturated fat - both polyunsaturated and monounsaturated. This type of fat or oil has numerous health benefits.
  • It transports fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K throughout the body.
  • It cushions and protects internal organs.
  • Essential fatty acids (EFAs), benefit your heart, metabolism and immune system.
  • Some EFAs are used by the body for structural, hormonal and electrical functions rather than for energy. These EFAs increase metabolic rate and increase fat burn off resulting in loss of weight.
  • Fat is a concentrated source of energy.

Monounsaturated fats

Olives and olive oil
Monounsaturated fats lower total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol) while increasing HDL cholesterol (the good cholesterol). Monounsaturated fats have a great deal of benefit to offer:
  • Olives and olive oil: Great for the heart, as well as the waist and they also have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits because they contain polyphenols and vitamin E.

      Macadamia nu
    • Nuts: Macadamia nuts have the highest content of monounsaturated fats, followed by hazelnuts, pecans, and almonds. Good for the heart, as they are a good source of soluble fiber calories. They also make an ideal snack as they are so filling. Studies also show that the oils they contain stimulate fat loss. 

    • Avocados: According to a recent study in Brisbane, Australia, eating avocados daily for three weeks improved blood cholesterol in middle-aged women better than a low-fat diet did. The avocado diet reduced total cholesterol 8 percent compared with 5 percent for the low-fat diet. Most important, avocados improved the good HDL-cholesterol ratio by 15 percent. The daily amount of avocado ranged from 1/2 avocado for small women to 1 1/2 for large women. Expected outcome: By eating avocados, heart patients could cut their risk of heart attack 10-20 percent and death rates 4-8 percent in 3-5 years. 
    Dark chocolate
    • Dark chocolate: Not to be used as an excuse to binge on chocolate, but including some dark chocolate into your cheat meals is a delicious way to get some extra monounsaturated fats into your diet. About a third of the fat found in dark chocolate is monounsaturated. Dark chocolate is also full of flavonoids, which help to protect cells from free radical damage and lower blood pressure. So next time you are staring at the chocolate shelf in your local grocery store be sure to choose the dark option over milk or white chocolate

    Polyunsaturated fats

    Polyunsaturated fats also lower total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol. It contains essential fatty acids (EFAs) such as omega-6s (linoleic acid) and omega-3s (alpha-linoleic acid) that are needed in our diet. So, a certain amount of polyunsaturated fats are needed because essential fatty acids may help in prevent or control of all kinds of ailments and conditions such as:
    • heart disease
    • cancer
    • immune system deficiencies
    • arthritis
    • obesity
    Polyunsaturated fats are also one of few rich sources of vitamin E.
    Polyunsaturated fats are found in foods of plant origin. The best sources are oily fish, walnuts, sesame and pumpkin seeds. Other high sources are vegetable oils such as sunflower and safflower.

    The Bad Fat

    Saturated fats have been proven to raise overall cholesterol levels and contribute to heart disease. Saturated fat is found mostly in foods that come from animals. These include:

    A high content of saturated fat can be found in some foods that come from plants such as:
    Palm kernel oil
    Coconut oil

    The Worst Fats

    Trans fats were invented when scientists decided to hydrogenate or turn liquid fat into solid fat. This process increases the shelf life of certain products and helps to preserve flavor. However, these fats are particularly dangerous. In fact, the recommended daily amount of trans fats according to the American Food and Drug Administration is zero. Like saturated fats, trans fats have been strongly linked to heart disease.
    Where can you find trans fats? You’ll be surprised and shocked! Yes, in chocolates and wafers, in shortening and margarine, in ice-creams, biscuits and cookies, cakes, breakfast cereals, burgers, bakery produce, French fries, pastries, pies and puffs, fried chicken, and pizza.

    What Can You Do?

    • Avoid using cooking oils that are high in saturated fats and/or trans fats such as coconut oil, palm oil or vegetable shortening. Instead, use oils that are low in saturated fats and high in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats such as canola oil, olive oil and flax seed oil.
    • Minimize using commercially packaged foods which are high in trans fats. Always read labels to look for trans fat free alternatives.
    • As saturated fats are found in animals products, use lower-fat version dairy such as 1% or skim milk instead of whole milk. Trim visible fats and skins from meat products.
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