The fact is: we all need fats. Fats helps nutrient absorption, nerve transmission, maintaining cell membrane integrity etc. However, when consumed in excess amount, fats contribute to weight gain, heart disease and certain types of cancer. Fats are not created equal. Some fats promote our health positively while others increase our risks of heart disease. The key is to replace bad fats with good fats in our diet.
Good Fats and Bad Fats
The Good Fats
Monounsaturated fats (MUFAs) lower total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol) while increasing HDL cholesterol (the good cholesterol). Nuts including peanuts, walnuts, almonds and pistachios, avocado, canola and olive oil are high in MUFAs. MUFAs have also been found to help in weight loss, particularly body fat. Click here for more weight loss nutrition tips.
Polyunsaturated fats also lower total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol. Seafood like salmon and fish oil, as well as corn, soy, safflower and sunflower oils are high in polyunsaturated fats. Omega 3 fatty acids belong to this group.
The Bad Fats
Saturated fats raise total blood cholesterol as well as LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol). Saturated fats are mainly found in animal products such as meat, dairy, eggs and seafood. Some plant foods are also high in saturated fats such as coconut oil, palm oil and palm kernel oil.
Trans fats are invented as scientists began to “hydrogenate” liquid oils so that they can withstand better in food production process and provide a better shelf life. As a result of hydrogenation, trans fatty acids are formed. Trans fatty acids are found in many commercially packaged foods, commercially fried food such as French Fries from some fast food chains, other packaged snacks such as microwaved popcorn as well as in vegetable shortening and hard stick margarine.
What can we do?
- avoid using cooking oils that are high in saturated fats and/or trans fats such as coconut oil, palm oil or vegetable shortening. Instead, use oils that are low in saturated fats and high in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats such as canola oil, olive oil and flax seed oil.
- minimize using commercially packaged foods which are high in trans fats. Always read labels to look for trans-fat free alternatives.
- as saturated fats are found in animals products, use lower-fat version dairy such as 1% or skim milk instead of whole milk. Trim visible fats and skins from meat products.
- Trans Fats 101 – What and Where?
- Are Omega-6 Fatty Acids Any Good?
- Olive Oil 101 – Podcast
- Saturated Fat in Coconut Oil is Bad for Your Heart
- All Things Coconut: Hot New Coconut Food Products You May Want to Try
Gloria Tsang is the author of 5 books and the founder of HealthCastle.com, the largest online nutrition network run by registered dietitians. Her work has appeared in major national publications, and she is a regularly featured nutrition expert for media outlets across the country. The Huffington Post named her one of its Top 20 Nutrition Experts on Twitter. Gloria’s articles have appeared on various media such as Reuters, NBC & ABC affiliates, The Chicago Sun-Times, Reader’s Digest Canada, iVillage and USA Today.