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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Know Your Fats...The Good the Bad and the Ugly!

e all know that we should limit the amount of fat in our diets but do we really understand the different types of fat. Are some fats worse than others?  Is there such a thing as "Good" fats?  The answers are YES!

Even though we should limit fat in our diet we should understand that some fat in our diet is essential.  But more importantly the types of fat we are eating can affect our health greatly.

Types of Fat
There are essentially 4 different types of fat.
  • Trans Fats
  • Saturated Fats
  • Monounsaturated Fats
  • Polyunsaturated Fats

The Good
Both Monosaturated and Polyunsaturated fats are what would be considered "Good Fats".  These types of fat are found mostly in fish, nuts, seeds and oils from plants. Both polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats may help lower your blood cholesterol level when you use them in place of saturated and trans fats. But a moderate intake of all types of fat is best.

Examples:
  • Salmon
  • Trout
  • Herring
  • Avocados
  • Olives
  • Walnuts
  • Liquid vegetable oils such as soybean, corn, safflower, canola, olive and sunflower.
The Bad
Saturated fat is considered to be a "Bad Fat".  A diet high in saturated fat is the main cause for high cholesterol.  You can find saturated fats in animal or diary products and occasionally in some plants. Saturated fat is not the WORST fat out there but should be limited.

Examples:
  • Animal Products:
    • Beef
    • Beef Fat
    • Veal
    • Lamb
    • Pork
    • Lard
    • Poultry fat
  • Diary Products: 
    • Butter
    • Cream
    • Milk (Mostly your higher percent milks like 2% and Whole)
    • Cheeses and other dairy products made from whole and 2 percent milk.
  • Plants:
    • Coconut
    • Coconut oil
    • Palm oil and palm kernel oil (often called tropical oils)
    • Cocoa butter.
The Ugly
Trans Fats are on "The Ugly" list in regards to fats.  They are classified by some doctors as the worst fat of them all. Trans Fats also known as Trans Fatty Acid should be either consumed very very little if at all. Essentially Trans fats should be less than 1% of your daily calories. Trans Fat used to be more common but are becoming less common due to the "bad rap" they receive.  The biggest concern with Trans Fats is that it raises your "bad" (LDL) cholesterol and lowers your "good" (HDL) cholesterol.
Trans Fats are most commonly found in highly processed foods or commerically baked goods such as:
  • Cookies
  • Cakes
  • Crackers
  • Donuts
  • French Fries
  • Shortenings
  • Some margarines
More commonly now you will find products that say "0 grams of Trans Fat" but you may need to take a closer look to get the full story. In the United States if a food has less than 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving, the food label can read 0 grams trans fat. Though that's a small amount of trans fat, if you eat multiple servings of foods with less than 0.5 grams of trans fat, you could exceed recommended limits.

Beware
As I mentioned before a nutrition label may say "0 grams of Trans Fat" but that may not be the full story.  When looking at the ingredients you want to look for the words "partially hydrogenated" vegetable oil. That's another term for trans fat. The word "shortening" also is a clue: Shortening contains some trans fat.

However, if a food label says "fully" or "completely" hydrogenated oil is does NOT contain Trans Tat. Unlike partially hydrogenated oil, the process used to make fully or completely hydrogenated oil doesn't result in trans-fatty acids. However, if the label says just "hydrogenated" vegetable oil, it could mean the oil contains some trans fat.

The Scoop
  • Limit total fat intake to less than 25–35 percent of your total calories each day;
  • Limit saturated fat intake to less than 7 percent of total daily calories;
  • Limit trans fat intake to less than 1 percent of total daily calories;
  • The remaining fat should come from sources of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats such as nuts, seeds, fish and vegetable oils; and
References:
American Heart Association
Mayo Clinic

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