When you make a salad and drizzle some olive oil, or toss in some nuts for extra flavor to your yoghurt, or spread some peanut butter on hot fresh bread they serve you at a restaurant, could you be harming yourself? Are you having too much fats? Should you change all these habits? What’s good and what’s bad? We’re here to help answer these questions for you.
First off, let’s make it clear that your body needs fat! Fat is a major source of energy, it is needed to build cell membranes and is essential for blood clotting, muscle movement, inflammation and absorption of some vitamins and minerals. It is also required for the production of sex hormones such as estrogen and testosterone.
However; for long-term health, some fats are better than others. Good fats include monounsaturated (mufas) and polyunsaturated fats (pufas), whereas bad fats include industrial-made trans fats and saturated fats. What does all of this mean? Saturated, unsaturated? Let’s explain further: Trans Fats are the worst type of dietary fat as they are not naturally occurring and significantly increase your risk of heart disease. Foods rich in trans fats such as commercial cookies, pies and cakes, increases the amount of harmful LDL cholesterol and reduces the amount of beneficial HDL cholesterol. Trans fats also creates inflammation, which is linked to heart disease, stroke, diabetes, insulin resistance and other chronic conditions.
Saturated fats are the type of fat that is solid at room temperature. Common sources include red meat, whole milk and other whole-milk dairy foods, cheese, coconut oil, and is hidden in many commercially prepared goods such as cookies and pies.
Good fats come mainly from vegetables, nuts, seeds, and fish and they are liquid at room temperature. Good sources of monounsaturated fats are olive oil, peanut oil, canola oil, avocados, and most nuts, as well as safflower and sunflower oils.
Then comes the two main types of polyunsaturated fats (pufas): omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. These are essential fats that you need to get from food since they are required for normal body functions but your body can’t make them.
Good sources of omega-3 fatty acids include fatty fish such as salmon and sardines, flaxseeds, walnuts, and canola oil. While food rich in omega-6 fatty acids include vegetable oils such as safflower, soybean, sunflower, walnut, and corn oils.
It is recommended to replace saturated and trans fats with mufas and pufas as these assist in leading a much healthier lifestyle and provide you with health benefits. This has shown to protect against heart disease by reducing the harmful LDL cholesterol, improving the cholesterol profile, and lowering triglyceride levels.
A study suggested that replacing just 5% of calories from saturated fat with calories from unsaturated fat cuts risk of coronary heart disease by 42% and is more effective at preventing heart attacks than simply reducing overall fat intake.
It’s not just the amount of fat you eat, it’s also about the quality of your overall diet that affects your health. If you want to cut down on fat calories in your diet, make sure that the missing calories are not coming from other, not very healthy, foods such as refined carbohydrates (e.g., white bread, white rice) or sugary beverages.
Take home message: the type of fat does in fact matter, so choose foods with healthy unsaturated fat, limit foods high in saturated fat, and try to avoid foods with trans fats as much as possible for a better health.
Happy Healthy Eating!