Fats are an interesting subject of nutrition. Many people think that all fat is bad for the body. Not long ago, a popular diet was to avoid all fats – fat-free.
But the truth is the body needs fat in order to survive. Thirty percent of calories consumed each day should come from fat. However, only 7% should come from saturated fat and less than 1% from trans-fat.
Without fat the body would not be able to process the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, K – all necessary for good health. Your body needs the essential fatty acids called linoleic acid and alpha-linoleic acid (Omega 6) to maintain skin, hair and promote wound healing. They are essential fats because the body is incapable of making them.
The good fats are the unsaturated ones – poly and mono – while the bad ones are the saturated and trans-fat.
Both the saturated and unsaturated occur naturally in foods. Trans-fats are generally a manufactured fat produced by hydrogenating liquid fat into a solid at room temperature. Food manufacturers use it to extend the shelf life of their products. While some trans-fat is naturally occurring in meat and dairy, the amount is inconsequential. Manufactured trans-fat should be avoided as much as possible.
Unsaturated fats help lower your LDL (bad cholesterol) and raise your HDL (good cholesterol). Good sources of mono-unsaturated fat include walnuts, almonds, pistachios and certain oils such as olive, avocado and canola. Foods containing the poly-unsaturated Omega 3 include fish like: salmon, tuna, mackerel and herring. While the oils: corn, soy, safflower and sunflower contain Omega 6.
On the other hand saturated fats raise the bad cholesterol. Thus, increasing your risk of heart disease by forming plaques inside your arteries. This type of fat is generally found in red meat, dairy, eggs and seafood. It’s also found in certain plant oils, mainly coconut, palm and palm-kernel.
To eat healthy use healthy unsaturated oils in cooking and read nutritional labels. Look for foods low in saturated fat.
Even though the label may show no trans-fat, the item may still have some in it. Add up both the saturated and unsaturated fat grams. Compare that number to the total fat. If the numbers are not the same, the difference is trans-fat. According to FDA standards, if trans-fat is less than 0.5 of a gram, manufacturers don’t have to declare it on the label.
Knowing what is good and bad is half the battle. Now it is up to you to implement what you know about fats and to choose your foods wisely.