When it comes to our diet and nutrition we often view fats as the enemy. Certain types of fat and the fat like substance cholesterol may contribute to health issues such as; Obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer. However, some fats are actually better for you than others and can help with good health. Therefore, it is important to understand the difference between ‘good’ fats and ‘bad’ fats.
Dietary fat can be found in animal and plant foods. Research is ongoing on dietary fat. Some facts are clear. Certain fats have been known to be bad and negative to our health. Studies show that good fats have significant health benefits.
Certain bodily functions rely on the presence of fat. For example, some vitamins require fat in order to dissolve into your bloodstream and provide nutrients and produce important hormones. Fat has an essential role to play in our bodies similar to what carbohydrates and proteins, in fuelling your body with energy.
A diet rich in saturated fats can contribute in an increase in cholesterol, and tip the balance toward more harmful LDL cholesterol. This encourages blockages to form in arteries in the heart and elsewhere in the body. Health problems occur when eating too much of the wrong fats and consuming excess calories.
The two types of fats that have been identified as harmful to our heart health are saturated and Trans fats (also known as trans fatty acids or TFA). Most of the foods that contain saturated and Tran’s fat are solid at room temperature. Examples of foods they can be found in are; deep fried fast foods, margarine, processed snack foods – doughnuts, cookies, cakes, pastries etc.
Similar to saturated fat, Tran’s fat can raise total blood cholesterol levels (LDL) cholesterol, also known as “bad” cholesterol. This can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. Saturated fats are found primary in animal based foods, high fat meat and dairy products – lamb , pork , dark chicken meat, poultry skin, fatty cuts of beef and high dairy foods such as whole fat milk, butter, cheese, ice cream, lard. Saturated fats and Trans fats should be avoided or eaten very sparingly.
There are two broad categories of beneficial fats: Monounsaturated and Polyunsaturated fats. Monounsaturated fat and polyunsaturated fat are considered more heart-healthy fats. These fats should be included in moderation in your diet. Polyunsaturated fats are found in plant based foods and oils such as olive oil, canola oil, vegetables, avocado, fish, nuts, seeds. Healthy fats are liquid at room temperature and not solid. Research has shown consuming these type of fats can boost your good blood cholesterol level and decrease your risk of heart disease.
Omega-3 fatty acids are particularly beneficial for your heart. These fats can help reduce blood pressure levels and decrease the risk of coronary artery disease and strokes. These can be found in roasted soy beans, walnuts, tofu, flaxseed, canola oil, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, and in fish such as; salmon, mackerel, herring and trout.
Healthier fats are an important part of your diet, but it is crucial to moderate your consumption of them, because all fats are high in calories. Learn to recognise the difference between healthy and unhealthy fats so you can make an informed choice.
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