When we speak of healthy diets, “fat” has become a dirty word. It is very understandable, considering the increase in heart disease, cancer, strokes, and the many other ailments and diseases that can be traced back to a high fat diet. But before you pass judgment on fats, it is best to gain a better understanding of the different types of fats. Learn which ones should be limited or avoided, and which are vital to good health.
Not all fats are created equal. Sadly, the bad fats, the ones that are making us sick, have been getting all the press. Good fats, on the other hand, are important for our health.
Fat contains the most calories per gram, so it helps to give us energy. We need fat for metabolism and to keep our skin healthy. We also need it to help us absorb certain vitamins.
Following is a listing of the different types of fats and a description of each. When you understand the difference in fats, it will be easier to make good decisions about your diet.
Unsaturated fats are the good fats. They are liquid at room temperature.
Two types of unsaturated fats are monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats.
Monounsaturated fats are healthy fats that lower your LDL cholesterol levels, and in turn, improve your heart health. LDL is an abbreviation for low density lipoprotein cholesterol. This is the bad kind of cholesterol. The good kind of cholesterol is high density lipoprotein cholesterol, or HDL.
Good sources for monounsaturated fats are canola and olive oils, and avocadoes, nuts and seeds. The FDA reports that replacing saturated oils with Olive oil, and consuming 2 tablespoons per day, can decrease your risk of heart disease.
Omega-3 fatty acids and Omega-6 fatty acids are the two types of polyunsaturated fats. We get them from vegetable oils, fish like salmon and tuna, flaxseed, flax oil, sunflower seeds, whole grain wheat, and walnuts.
Trans Fats or Hydrogenated Fats
Trans fats or Hydrogenated Fats are unsaturated fats, but don’t be fooled. Unlike the other unsaturated fats we just talked about, these are oils that you need to avoid. These fats are created through a process called hydrogenation that changes liquid oils into solid fats. The food industry started the hydrogenation process in the early 1900’s in order to make foods last longer on the shelves. What they did not realize at the time, was that it is impossible for our bodies to break down these fats. Consequently, we began seeing an increase in heart disease and cancer. Hydrogenated fats are also thought to be a contributing factor in Alzheimer’s and possibly other diseases that are plaguing our world.
Saturated fats are the bad fats. These are the fats that are solid when they are at room temperature. They come from meat and dairy products and also plants such as coconut and palm. They cause an increase in LDL cholesterol levels, which is what we should be trying to avoid.
As a rule, The American Heart Association says we should consume less than 25 to 35 percent of our daily calories in the form of fat. Saturated fat intake should be no more than 7 percent of our total calories, and trans fat should be no more than one percent. The rest of our fats should come from monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.
Everyday Health-Good Fats, Bad Fats, Learn which fats are good for you and which ones to avoid, by Connie Brichford, Medically reviewd by Cynthia Haines, MD.
Nutrition and Healthy Eating from Mayo Clinic, Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D.
Spectrum-Hydrogenation and Trans-Fatty Acids
American Heart Association, Know Your Fats