For many years it was widely believed that all fat should be avoided. Unsaturated fat, saturated fat and trans fat were all considered equally bad. However, with advancement in science it has now been discovered that fat, and the way in which our bodies process it, is much more complex than previously thought.
In order to function optimally, our bodies need some fat – but it needs the right kinds of fats, and it needs them in moderation. While some fats should be avoided at all costs, some fats are actually good for you. Which Is Which?
According to Alexa Schmitt, RD from the Massachusetts General Hospital where she works as a clinical nutritionist, polyunsaturated fats and mono-unsaturated fats are good fats, and saturated fats should be consumed in moderation. However, trans fats should be avoided completely since they increase cholesterol levels. This comes with an increase in a variety of health conditions and illnesses including heart disease and stroke when levels of certain kinds of cholesterol are increased. Particularly dangerous is the LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol which is also known as “bad” cholesterol.
How To Know Which Food Contain Which Fats? As an overall guide, according to Schmitt fats that are liquid when they are at room temperature such as olive oil are a better option than those that are semi-solid at room temperature such as margarine and butter. The following tips can help you to choose a diet that is rich in polyunsaturated fats and mono-unsaturated fats while being low in trans fats.
Sources: olive oils, canola, avocados and most nuts.
Tips: Instead of spreading cream cheese on your bagel, choose avocado. When making mashed potatoes, instead of using butter and whole milk, use garlic and olive oil.
The two types of poly-unsaturated fat are: omega-3 and omega-6. The average American diet contains plenty of omega-6 fats from vegetable oils, so the focus needs to be on omega-3. The best sources of omega-3 fats are flaxseed, walnuts, and fish such as tuna and salmon.
Tips: Add a tablespoon of ground flaxseed to your cereal or oatmeal in the morning.
Eat a handful of walnuts as a snack.
Add ground flaxseed to your baking mixtures.
Fatty meats like salami, red meat and dairy products such as butter and cream are all sources of saturated fats, along with thicker vegetable oils such as kernel oil, palm oil and coconut oil.
Tips: While you may still enjoy a steak occasionally, try to keep saturated fats to 10% or less of your daily diet.
This fat is the result of adding hydrogen to vegetable oil. The purpose of this process is to extend the shelf life of packaged and processed foods which include bakery products like crackers and cookies.
Tips: The current guidelines from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) mean that if a product contains less than 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving they may call their product “trans fat free”. Check the food labels on processed food for “partially hydrogenated” and “hydrogenated oils in the list of ingredients since these words indicate that the food may have up to 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving. If you eat just a few servings, you are ingesting a substantial amount of tans fat.
It is wise to be an educated and aware shopper. Try to do most of your shopping on the perimeter of the grocery store where the fresh food is located, and limit your visits to the inside aisles where the trans fat foods are kept. Sticking to fresh and frozen vegetables and fruits along with fresh whole grains from the bakery and lean cuts of fish and meat will improve your level of healthy fat.