‘Fats’ used to be a word negatively said out of our mouths, and we would banish it from our diets. This decision was not always the healthiest for us because we were also banishing the good fats that our body needs.
Men may be created equal, but fats are not! Some fats are good for you and even help promote good overall health, while others can lead to cardiovascular complications, obesity, diabetes, etc. Knowing which to eat more of or in moderation helps us make informed decisions about what we are consuming to fuel our bodies.
Less healthy fats:
Two fats have been identified to be bad for your health, trans fat and saturated fat. They are most commonly found in butter, margarine, shortening, baked goods, fried foods, non-dairy coffee creamer, beef or pork fat, etc.
Saturated fats are fats that come from animals or animal by-products (dairy). Found in fatty cuts of beef, pork, lamb, dark chicken meat, poultry skin, whole milk, cheese, butter, ice cream, and sour cream.
Consuming too much saturated fat can lead to high cholesterol levels (LDL), increasing your risk for various heart diseases. Replacing saturated fat with polyunsaturated fats can reduce your risk of heart diseases.
Trans fatty acid is considered the unhealthiest fat for you. It is typically found in fried foods, shortening, margarine, processed snacks, and baked goods. Just like saturated fats, trans fat can raise your cholesterol level (LDL), but it also suppresses your (HDL) cholesterol levels, which is the “good” cholesterol for you.
Trans fat has also been linked to an increased risk of inflammation in your body, which can cause potentially harmful side effects, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and stroke.
Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are known as the more “heart conscious” fats. They are a better choice for your diet than trans and saturated fats. A good rule of thumb for these healthier fats is that the fats tend to be liquid when at room temperatures, like olive oil and canola oil.
You may have heard a reference of people saying they are trying to eat a more Mediterranean diet. A Mediterranean diet is a great example of a diet that mostly consists of monounsaturated fats. Rather than saturated animal fat, a Mediterranean diet mostly consists of olive oil, which is a great replacement for those trans fats. Though there is no daily intake recommendation for monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats, it is recommended to use them as much as possible to replace saturated and trans fats. Other great sources for monounsaturated fats are peanut oil, canola oil, avocados, and most nuts, and sunflower oils.
You need to understand how good these fats are for you! These are our essential fats, which are required for normal body functions. Our bodies do not produce them, so we must obtain them from our food. They are needed for blood clotting, muscle movement, and inflammation. There are two main types of polyunsaturated fats: omega-3 fatty acids and omega-6 fatty acids.
Omega-3 fatty acids are so good for you! They help prevent and even treat heart disease and stroke. Some good sources of omega-3 fatty acids include fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, herring, trout, and sardines. Other good sources include flaxseeds, walnuts, canola oil, chia seeds, and soybean oil.
Omega-6 fatty acids have also been linked to protection against heart disease. Foods rich in linoleic acid and other omega-6 fatty acids include vegetable oils such as safflower, soybean, sunflower, tofu, walnut, and corn oils.
Do not let the word “fat” put a negative image in your mind. The right kinds of fats are essential for your overall health. However, like with most things, even good fats should be taken in moderation because they are high in calories. As a result, it is a good idea to incorporate some of these foods that contain monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats into your existing diet and eliminate or decrease your intake of saturated and trans fats. It is a strategy that will help your heart and improve your quality of life.