Good vs. Bad Fat

Is it good or bad?

Which do I put in my diet and which do I get rid of?

Fat is considered good or bad based on whether it contributes to poor health and disease such as high cholesterol and heart disease.

Monounsaturated, polyunsaturated and saturated are found in nature, while trans fats are manufactured. Here's the skinny on the differences.

Monounsaturated is considered to be good – it does not cause cholesterol to increase. If you substitute monounsaturated for saturated or trans, it helps to lower LDL (“bad” cholesterol) and to keep HDL (“good” cholesterol) from going down.

Monounsaturated is in olive oil, canola oil, peanut oil, and in most nuts and nut butters. You can calculate the amount of monosaturated and polyunsaturated from a label by subtracting the saturated and trans from the total.

Polyunsaturated The two major categories of polyunsaturated are Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids. Omega-3s are anti-inflammatory and can help people lower triglycerides, while Omega-6s promote inflammation. Because of this, Omega-3 is considered “good” and Omega-6 “bad”. However, both are essential for human health and it’s the balance of the two that is important.

Throughout history, humans have eaten these in equal (1:1 ratio) proportions. Today, Americans consume closer to 15:1 Omega-6 to Omega-3 or worse. A deficiency of Omega-3 is positively correlated with over 50 illnesses such as cancer, heart disease, stroke and diabetes.

The best sources of Omega-3s are fish such as salmon, sardines, mackerel, herring, and rainbow trout, among others. Canola oil, walnuts, and flaxseed also contain some Omega-3s. These fatty acids are not listed separately on the food label.

Saturated Saturated is mainly found in animal products such as meat, poultry with the skin, seafood, many dairy products, eggs, butter, and cheese, as well as tropical oils (coconut, palm, and palm kernel), fast food and junk food.

Our body needs a small amount (about 20 grams) of saturated each day, but the typical American diet usually exceeds that amount. Too much may cause a person's total cholesterol and bad cholesterol (LDL) to rise and may also increase the risk of developing certain types of cancer. Saturated is listed separately on food labels.

Trans Trans (hydrogenated/partially hydrogenated) are manufactured by adding hydrogen to a polyunsaturated fat, making it solid at room temperature. Trans replaced saturated and gained rapid use since they have a longer shelf life.

However, trans are worse than saturated as they not only raise LDL cholesterol, but also decrease the level of HDL cholesterol. As trans are not necessary and harmful to your health, they should be eliminated from the diet.

Trans is found in margarine, donuts, fried foods, junk food, fast food, baked goods and many processed foods. As of January 2006, the amount in a food must be shown on the nutrition label. Many people do not realize that products containing 0.5 grams or less of trans per serving are allowed to report zero grams on the nutrition label.

To know whether a product has trans, you must read the ingredients list: if you see the words "partially hydrogenated oil" or "hydrogenated oil" there is some there. This may not seem significant, but if you eat 8 cookies and a serving of 2 cookies has 0.5 grams of trans fat, you’ve actually eaten 2 whole grams total.

It is important to eat some “good fat” with your vegetables to absorb their good for you phytochemicals (like lycopene from tomatoes and lutein from dark-green vegetables).

A recent Ohio State University study measured how well phytochemicals were absorbed after people ate a lettuce, carrot, and spinach salad with or without 2 1/2 tablespoons of avocado. The avocado-eating group absorbed 8.3 times more alpha-carotene and 13.6 times more beta-carotene (both of which help protect against cancer and heart disease), and 4.3 times more lutein (which helps with eye health) than those who did not eat avocados.

So, next time put avocados, walnuts and/or olive oil on your salad!

Not only can fats be “good” by lowering cholesterol (like with olive oil) or providing Omega-3 (as with salmon), but there are other positives; in general they:
• make us feel full and satisfied
• supply yummy textures — smooth, creamy, crispy, etc.
• boost flavor and help us enjoy food
• are needed to absorb and store certain vitamins and plant chemicals
• are essential building blocks in cell production, maintenance, and repair
• provide and store energy for the body's use

Remember, though, that the calories are more concentrated in fat than in protein or carbohydrate, so they add up quickly. And consuming too much saturated and trans may result in negative health consequences.

If you have high total cholesterol, LDL and/or triglycerides, you likely need to eat less of it, especially saturated and trans fat.

To reduce it overall, try the following:
1. Choose lean meat and low-fat dairy products or dairy substitute products, such as cheese, skim milk, or tofu sour cream.
2. Reduce saturated to around 7% of your recommended daily intake, trans to 0%, with your total fat intake being less than 30%.
3. Reduce cholesterol to less than 300 mg a day.
4. Eat lots of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
5. Reduce fried foods to no more than a few servings per week. (Some alternatives to frying foods are grilling, broiling, steaming, and baking.)
6. Watch out - it may be hidden in many products (salad dressings, baked desserts, creamy soups, and chocolate for example)

Don’t forget to exercise to burn it off too! Aerobic exercise and endurance activities of low to moderate intensity and of long duration rely on fat to provide most of the energy. Some suggestions of this type of exercise are slow jogging, walking, step aerobics, cycling, and hiking. You will show noticeable results if you exercise for at least 20 minutes 4 or more days of the week.

Good sources:
• salmon, tuna, mackerel, herring, sturgeon, anchovies
• canola oil, olive oil
• avocado, broccoli, cantaloupe, kidney beans, spinach, Chinese cabbage, cauliflower
• seeds and nuts, especially flaxseed and walnuts

Put plenty of these foods in your diet!

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