HEALTHY FATS FOR LIVING: KNOW WHICH TYPE TO CHOOSE
Most foods contain several different kinds of fats — including saturated, polyunsaturated, monounsaturated and trans fats — and some kinds are better for your health than others are. It’s not necessary that you completely eliminate all fats from your meals. Rather, choose the healthier types of fats and enjoy them in moderation.
Fat: A necessary nutrient:
Besides being energy source, fat is a nutrient used in the production of cell membranes, as well as in several hormone-like compounds called eicosanoids. These compounds help regulate blood pressure, heart rate, blood vessel constriction, blood clotting and the nervous system.
Dietary fat carries fat-soluble vitamins — vitamins A, D, E and K — from your food into your body.
Fat also helps maintain healthy hair and skin, protects vital organs, keeps your body insulated, and provides a sense of fullness after meals.
But too much fat can be harmful.
Eating large amounts of high-fat foods adds excess calories, which can lead to weight gain and obesity. Also too much of certain types of fats — such as saturated fat or trans fat — can increase your blood cholesterol levels and your risk of coronary artery disease.
Healthy fats for living:
When choosing fats, your best options are unsaturated fats: monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. These fats, if used in place of others, can lower your risk of heart disease. One type of polyunsaturated fat, omega-3 fatty acids, is especially beneficial to your heart. It also protects against irregular heartbeats and help lower blood pressure levels.
Here are the differences as well as the best food sources of these healthy fats:
Monounsaturated fat remains liquid at room temperature but may start to solidify in the refrigerator. Foods high in monounsaturated fat include olive, peanut and canola oils. Avocados and most nuts also have high amounts of monounsaturated fat.
Polyunsaturated fat is usually liquid at room temperature and in the refrigerator. Foods high in polyunsaturated fats include vegetable oils, such as corn, sunflower, soy and cottonseed oils.
Omega-3 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fats found mostly in seafood. Good sources of omega-3s include fatty, cold-water fish, such as salmon, mackerel and herring. Flaxseeds, flax oil and walnuts also contain omega-3 fatty acids, and small amounts are found in soybean and canola oils.
Saturated and trans fats are less healthy kinds of fats. They can increase your risk of heart disease by increasing your total and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol. Here are how these fats differ and what their common food sources are:
Saturated fat: Usually solid or waxy at room temperature, saturated fat is most often found in animal products — such as red meat, poultry, butter and some dairy products. Other foods high in saturated fat include coconut and palm.
Trans fat: This comes from adding hydrogen to vegetable oil through a process called hydrogenation. This makes the fat more solid and less likely to spoil. Hydrogenated fat is a common ingredient in commercial baked goods — such as crackers, cookies and cakes — and in fried foods, such as doughnuts and chin-chin. Shortenings and some margarines also are high in trans fat.
Dietary cholesterol: Your body naturally manufactures all of the cholesterol it needs, but you also get cholesterol from animal products, such as meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, dairy products, lard and butter.
Tips for choosing the best types of fat
Snack on a small handful of nuts rather than potato chips or processed crackers. Or try peanut butter or other nut-butter spreads.
Add slices of avocado, rather than cheese, to your sandwich.
Prepare fish such as salmon and mackerel, which contain monounsaturated and omega-3 fats, instead of meat one or two times a week.