Good Fats vs. Bad Fats | HealthiNation

Posted on April 21, 2017 By

Let’s talk about the essentials. “Essential” means we need it to live. It may surprise you, but certain kinds of fats are “essential.” But all fats are not the same. Steak has fat, ice cream has fat… “bad-for-you fat” that’s a no-brainer. But, did you know that olives have fat? And, salmon and walnuts, those are “good-for-you fats.” The type of fat you choose can really impact your health.

Good fats are monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, while bad fats are saturated and trans fats. Monounsaturated fats can lower LDL cholesterol – “bad” cholesterol, and increase HDL, or “good,” cholesterol. High levels of bad cholesterol are linked to heart disease, so monounsaturated fats may help protect the heart. Some foods that contain these heart healthy fats are nuts like almonds, and pecans and seeds such as pumpkin and sesame. Avocado are high in this good fat too. Another “good” fat is polyunsaturated fat. Omega-3 fats are a type of polyunsaturated fat. Your body can’t make them and has to get them from the foods you eat. These good fats can lower bad cholesterol and help prevent heart disease and stroke. It may also decrease inflammation, which plays a role in many chronic conditions. You can get omega-3 fats by eating fish two or three times a week, or from liquid oils like flaxseed, canola, and soybean oil. Saturated fat is another story altogether. Now we’re talking about bad fats. Our bodies make all of the saturated fat that we need.

So, we don’t need to eat any more. And, saturated fat can raise levels of bad cholesterol. Foods that tend to be high in saturated fats are animal products, like red meat, poultry with the skin, whole milk, and butter. What about butter versus margarine? Not so long ago, we were urged to use margarine instead of butter, because butter is loaded with saturated fat and cholesterol, but then margarine got a bad rap too. Why? Many margarines, especially the hard sticks, were made with trans fats, and researchers discovered they are even worse than saturated fats. More on trans fats in a moment. So, whenever possible, skip both butter and margarine and use a liquid vegetable oil, like olive oil, in cooking and at the table. But if you want something spreadable, margarine is a better choice as long as you pick a soft margarine without any trans fat. Trans fats have been in the headlines a lot. They’re so bad some cities have banned them in restaurant food. Eating even a small amount of trans fat is unhealthy; it raises bad cholesterol – lowers good cholesterol and contributes to inflammation.

They can increase your risk of heart disease, diabetes and stroke. Trans fats are man-made and found primarily in packaged foods, like baked goods and many fried fast foods. You might be shocked to know that food companies, although they have to label foods that contain trans fats, are allowed to add up to half-a-gram of trans fats per serving and still call it zero on the label! Look for the words “hydrogenated,” “partially hydrogenated” or “shortening” — those means trans fats — skip those foods.

The truth is that the typical American diet has way too much bad fat – saturated and trans fat – and not enough good fats, the mono- and polyunsaturated fats. So here’s how you fix this: Avoid trans-fats altogether and limit saturated fats. Work to replace red meat with nuts, beans, skinless-poultry, and fish whenever possible, and choose low fat dairy products. And remember, use vegetable oils instead of butter or margarine. At the end of the day, you want to get your calories from nutrient-rich foods with the right balance of all the essentials..

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