What Types of Fat Are Good for You?
There is now quite a bit of evidence from medical studies to show that the types of fat you eat make a difference. Saturated fats tend to raise cholesterol levels, and eating too much of this kind of fat may worsen insulin resistance. Saturated fats are usually solid at room temperature and include the fats in butter, meats, poultry, milk, egg yolks, coconut oil, and palm oil. This is the kind of fat you want to eat only sparingly.
Is saturated fat good for you?
Polyunsaturated fats and monounsaturated fats, found in liquid vegetable oils, nuts, and seeds, do not have this negative effect, so these are the ones you can have more of. The exception is if they have been hydrogenated(hardened) or partially hydrogenated in processing. This creates harmful products called trans-fatty acids, or trans fats. Trans fatty acids can raise the “bad” type of cholesterol (LDL) and lower the “good” cholesterol (HDL).
It is best to avoid all foods containing trans fats. They are found in hard, stick margarine and in shortening, as well as any foods made with these ingredients. A number of trans fats is required to be listed in the Nutrition Facts section of the label on all foods. It is important to understand that foods labeled with 0 grams of trans fats may still contain up to .5 grams per serving. If you eat many servings of foods containing close to .5 grams each day, you could be consuming several grams of trans fats routinely.
To avoid this, check the ingredient listing for hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils and stay away from products that contain these ingredients. Trans fats are also in the deep-fried foods at most restaurants. Avoid these too! There are many soft tub margarine that do not contain hydrogenated fats. These would be preferable to butter or stick margarine. Some even contain high amounts of omega-3 fats, plant stanols, or plant sterols that have been proven to improve cholesterol.
In addition, the heating and processing of any fat can produce free radicals—highly reactive and unstable molecules—which experts strongly believe may cause cancer. Therefore, the best oils are those that are liquid and cold-pressed(not heated in processing). Any oil can be cold-pressed. This would be indicated on the front label. Cold-pressed oils are “fragile,” tending to spoil easily.
Keep them in a dark bottle, refrigerated. Even the normal heating involved in cooking can cause free radicals to form in cold-pressed oils. Avoid foods that are deep-fried in oil particularly. The high-temperature heating and reheating of the frying oil cause large amounts of free radicals. Using fat-free substitutes such as pan spray when cooking is a great idea.
Another type of fat, omega-3 fatty acids, has been found to increase the levels of “good” cholesterol (HDL) in the body. Omega-3 fatty acids can be found in fatty fish, flax seeds, walnuts, soy, and soy products. They can also be found in canola oil, fish oils, flax seed oil, evening primrose oil, or borage seed oil. You must purchase some of these oils at a health food store. Look for them in the refrigerated section.
They are very fragile oils and must be kept cool. Remember that heating oil causes the formation of free radicals. So eat them cold, as in salad dressings or on already-cooked pasta. Some experts recommend using these oils as a daily supplement, especially if you are showing signs of fatty acid deficiency. This includes hair loss, dry hair, dry eyes, dry skin, constipation, and small bumps on the backs of the arms.
Plant stanols and plant sterols are substances that have been proven to reduce cholesterol. They have been added to several brands of tub margarine and recently can also be found in several other foods such as orange juice, mayonnaise, chocolate bars, granola bars, and cheese. Check the labels of foods that state they are “heart healthy” to see if they contain sterols or stanols. Studies have shown that it is possible to reduce cholesterol levels by up to 12 percent just by eating two servings of any of these foods each day. Many of the foods fortified with plant stanols or sterols are high in carbohydrates, so remember to link and balance them!
Dietary Fat Action Plan
As we have said, a healthy diet is one that limits your fat to less than 35 percent of your daily intake. This is less than 70 grams per day for most women and less than 85 grams per day for most men. You will be within this guideline if you choose protein foods in the form of lean meats, fish, poultry, and low-fat or fat-free dairy products and make sure the fat you eat in other foods is less than 3 grams per serving. Add up to three tablespoons a day of cold-pressed vegetable oils and/or fish oils or condiments made with liquid vegetable oils, such as some mayonnaise and salad dressings.
In addition, gain awareness of the fat content of foods without making it an obsession. Your goal is not to eliminate fat from your daily intake. That would be an impossible diet to maintain and would not be realistic for a lifetime of healthy eating, nor would it be healthy. Begin choosing lower-fat items or limiting the amounts of higher-fat foods to those that will provide 3 grams of fat or less per serving. Remember, any food that is labeled “low-fat” must contain less than 3 grams of fat per serving by law. Just be careful to eat only the amount listed as one serving. Reduced-fat foods may contain much more than 3 grams of fat per serving, so check those labels! And, of course, always remember to link and balance all of your food choices so that eating low-fat foods doesn’t give you an overload of carbohydrates.
Remember, any food that is labeled “low-fat” must contain less than 3 grams of fat per serving by law. Just be careful to eat only the amount listed as one serving. Reduced-fat foods may contain much more than 3 grams of fat per serving, so check those labels! And, of course, always remember to link and balance all of your food choices so that eating low-fat foods doesn’t give you an overload of carbohydrates.