Focus on Fats: Good vs. Bad

When you hear something is high in fat you may tend to shy away immediately or assume you’re going to have to move up a pant size. However, not all fats are bad. In fact, you actually need some fats to maintain a healthy diet. Our bodies use fat to fuel your energy levels, to help with keeping skin soft, and to provide fat soluble vitamins. So there is no need to completely eliminate fat from your diet.

The important thing to know is which fats are good and which are bad. The basic types are: trans fats, saturated, and unsaturated (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated). Not all fats are created equal. In fact, some fats can actually provide added health benefits. The best way to learn what’s in your food is to read the nutritional label or do a little extra research. If you have additional questions, check with a nutritionist or a doctor. Know what you are eating.

The Good Fats

Unsaturated fats are better for you overall. In fact, if you replace your saturated fats with unsaturated fats, and eat the good fats in moderation, you may be able to reduce cholesterol levels. It can even lower your risk of heart disease.

Polyunsaturated fats are often found in vegetable oils. These fats have been said to lower cholesterol levels in your blood and lower triglyceride levels. Omega-3 fatty acids are also polyunsaturated fats which offer possible heart health benefits. You can find omega-3s in various kinds of fish, including but not limited to salmon and trout. They are also available in flaxseed and walnuts.

Monounsaturated fats have been said to lower the risk of heart disease and offer as a good source vitamin E. You can find monounsaturated fats in olives (and olive oil), avocados, almonds, pumpkin seeds, peanut oil, cashews, and many other healthy foods.

The Bad Fats

Saturated fats are ones that should be limited. They can cause arteries to clog, raise cholesterol levels, and possibly even heighten your risk of heart disease. These fats are often found in fatty meats, dairy that is high fat such as whole milk, eggs, and even poultry skin. They are also found in some vegetable fats.

Trans fats are the worst for you and should be kept at a minimum. However, keep in mind the naturally occurring trans fats aren’t as much of a concern as the artificial trans fat. Naturally occurring can be found in dairy or meat. It can be found in partially hydrogenated fats. Often these are used in frying, cookies, foods that are pre-packaged, some microwave popcorn, and some margarines.

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