Good Fats vs. Bad Fats
Over the past few years, fats have become a hot topic. Which ones are good and which are bad? Many people try to avoid fat completely, but no matter how hard you try it may be difficult to avoid. All food in some ways have a little bit of fat contained in them. Here is a breakdown of the types of fats to look for, and which are beneficial to eat.
Total fat: Total fat means the percentage of fat in your daily diet. It is a fat that you eat that can impact your health. Our bodies naturally need fat as part of our diet. Depending on the type of fat (saturated or unsaturated), some may be helpful, others bad for you. The key is knowing the difference on how to identify the two.
THE GOOD FATS
Unsaturated fats: Unsaturated fats include polyunsaturated fatty acids and monounsaturated fats. Both mono- and polyunsaturated fats, when eaten in moderation and used to replace saturated or trans fats, have a protective effect on your health and can help lower cholesterol levels and reduce your risk of heart disease.
Monounsaturated fats are typically liquid at room temperature but solidify if refrigerated. These heart-healthy fats are typically a good source of the antioxidant vitamin E, a nutrient often lacking in American diets. An added bonus to monounsaturated fats is that they promote the loss of belly fat.
Foods that have monounsaturated fats:
- Olive oil
- Sunflower oil
- Peanut oil
- Dark chocolate
- Nuts (almonds, peanuts, macadamia nuts, hazelnuts, pecans, cashews)
- Peanut butter
Omega-3s There are three different typesofOmega-3s:ALA (alpha-linolenic acid), DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid).Though your body can turn ALA into the two other typesofOmega-3s, it’s somewhat difficult; therefore, it’s recommended that you consume the second two types. The American Heart Association recommends eating 2 servings of fatty fish each week. It is best to get omega-3s from food rather than supplements.
Foods that contain Omega-3s:
- pumpkin seeds
THE BAD FATS
Trans fat: This fat comes from mostly processed foods and should be avoided completely. Artificial trans fat can raise cholesterol levels, clog arteries, and increase the risk for heart disease. Main sources of trans fats are fried foods, baked goods, cookies,icings, crackers, packaged snack foods, microwave popcorn, and some margarines. Consuming even small amounts of artificial trans fats can increase LDL “bad” cholesterol and decrease HDL “good” cholesterol. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends limiting trans fat to less than 2 grams per day.
Foods that contain trans fat (avoid avoid avoid):
- hydrogenated oils- used in frying
- pie and pie crust
- cake mixes and frosting
- ground beef
- meat sticks and commercial jerky
- refrigerator cookie dough
Saturated fat: These are fats that are typically liquid at room temperature. The 2005 Dietary Guidelines recommend limiting saturated fats to 10% or less of your total calories, while the American Heart Association recommends keeping them to just 7% of total calories. You can’t eliminate these entirely from your diet because they do serve a purpose in your body, but you want to make sure that your intake is minimal.
Foods that contain saturated fat:
- processed meats
- chicken skin
- palm oil
It is important to remember not to focus on just fat alone if you’re trying to lose weight or get healthy. It’s also important to remember that we need fat for health, which can be found in both animal fat and plant fat.