Today, Friday, September 20, 2019

Good Fat, Bad Fat - The Role of Healthy Fats in Your Diet

Good Fat, Bad Fat - The Role of Healthy Fats in Your Diet

We normally associate fats with bad health or simply as a bad food chose, which is bad for our body—this is not true for all fats. Fats, together with carbohydrates are one of the main sources of energy for our body, which makes them essential for our diet and we should include in moderation.

Fats are divided in two kinds: saturated fat, which is found in animal products and in plant products, such as coconut oil and palm oil. Saturated fat is easy to recognize because it is solid at room temperature. Other fats, such as polyunsaturated fat and monounsaturated fat, are found in vegetable oils. These fats are liquid or very soft at room temperature.

The other kind, unsaturated fats are found in vegetables, nuts and fish. Incorporating unsaturated fats in our diets is necessary for good body function, although it must be done in moderation. The same is true for saturated fats, although these can have very adverse effects in our health if eaten in excess.

There has been a debate recently about low-fat diets vs. high fat diets, such as the Atkins diet. This diet, which is high in carbohydrates and low in fat, it’s been the solution for many people struggling with weight issues. Although it incorporates vegetables and healthy meats; it doesn’t include other food groups that are beneficial for an overall health, such as grains,

The same is true in a low fat diet, being that extremes are never good in terms of nutrition. When following a diet low in fats, more fats could accumulate in the liver, which is responsible for fat metabolism.

To understand this mechanism, we must learn about good fats and bad fats.

The healthy fats are those who belong to the unsaturated fats group—these are fats in pure state, which means they have not being transformed—and because of this are readily available for our bodies to make maximum use of them. This type of fats are found in vegetable derived foods such as olive oil or fish in form of Omega-3. Incorporating this type of healthy fats into our diets is essential to health.

A diet rich in healthy fats, will help us avoid heart disease due to its blood cleaning properties; reducing cholesterol and triglycerides in blood, which at the same time lowers blood pressure and with it the risk of strokes. They also help to regulate our bodies, helping us avoid diseases such as obesity.

In the other hand, we have the saturated fats, which are also essential to good body function, but we must eat them in moderation. Consumption of this kind of fats will increase cholesterol in blood; will reduce the capacity of the body to reduce cholesterol levels, which could lead to heart disease and imbalances in our body. Saturated fat is found in meats, coconut and palm oil, which are used in a variety of commercial breads and pastries and a large number of industrialized foods. Most processed foods combine fat with high sodium and sugar levels, which have a negative impact in our health.

Not all fats are the same and our body definitely needs healthy fats to function, avoiding all fats is not part of a healthy nutrition.

Healthy fats are like any other food; it is good eaten in moderation; as a good diet must incorporate a variety of foods for healthy nutrition. The need for healthy fats consumption from our body is based in the essential metabolic function and its role in the structural element as a source of essential fatty acids.

Healthy fats include these essential fatty acids, which as their name indicates are essential for life, although our body doesn’t produce them—the body must obtain them through diet or supplementation. These essential fatty acids are present in cold-water fish such as mackerel, salmon and anchovies. Supplements are also available. These healthy fats, help our brain to function better, help to stabilize our mood and keep our skin and joints healthy.

Overall, fats must provide approximately 30-35% of the daily energy we obtain from food. Of these fats, a 10% should be saturated fat, around 6-10% polyunsaturated fats, trans-fats should not surpass 1% and the rest could be complemented with monounsaturated fats.

Examples of food sources for these types of fats are:

Omega-3 fatty acids
Fatty, cold-water fish (such as salmon, mackerel and herring), flaxseeds, flax oil and walnuts

Monounsaturated fat
Olive oil, peanut oil, canola oil, avocados, nuts and seeds

Polyunsaturated fat
Vegetable oils (such as safflower, corn, sunflower, soy and cottonseed oils), nuts and seeds.

It is very easy to modify our diet to balance fat consumption. The substitution of full fat dairy with low-fat dairy products as milk and yogurt is an easy step. Animal fat should be replaced with healthy fats, such as olive oil; which is the healthiest alternative, but shouldn’t be excluded from our diets entirely. The same goes for meat, which should be cleaned from all fat prior to cooking.

Identifying the types of foods that contain higher content of saturated fats could help us incorporate them in our diets in healthier amounts.

Saturated fat
Animal products (such as meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, dairy products, lard and butter), and coconut, palm and other tropical oils

Trans fat
Partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, commercial baked goods (such as crackers, cookies and cakes), fried foods (such as doughnuts and french fries), shortening and margarine

Dietary cholesterol
Animal products (such as meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, dairy products, lard and butter)

The attention to the consumption of healthy fats is not only because of society’s almost obsession with saturated fat, but because many people have chosen not to include any fat at all in their diets with the purpose of losing weight. This is a mistake, being that the deficiency in healthy fats could lead to many diseases. The key to a healthy diet is to have variety, incorporating healthy fats and not consuming any foods in an excessive manner.

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