Most people link fat to weight gain, high cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood, but few people can differentiate between a friendly fat that is essential and healthy and unfriendly fat that can be harmful
Fat is one of the essential nutrients needed for normal body function as it gives you energy, protects your vital organs, and is needed to carry vitamins A, D, E and K throughout your body. Furthermore fat is a component of hormones that regulate body functions and a constituent of cell membranes.
The unhealthy fats:
- Saturated fats: Everybody is hearing about how “saturated fats” are harmful to heart health. Saturated fats raise total blood cholesterol and particularly LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol). High cholesterol levels in the blood can clog arteries over time causing heart disease. Saturated fats are found in animal products such as red meats, chicken, butter, ghee and whole milk, and some tropical oils such as coconut and palm oil.
- Trans fats: More awareness is now being spread about trans fat as they are found to be a bigger heart health culprit than saturated fats. Trans fats raise the levels of LDL cholesterol and reduce the levels of HDL cholesterol (the good cholesterol). These are mainly found in margarine and sometimes in commercial products such as cookies, crackers and cakes.
The healthy fats:
Good fats are the unsaturated fats mainly found in plants. They are healthy because they decrease the LDL cholesterol and could increase the HDL cholesterol which has a beneficial effect on blood vessels and the heart.
The unsaturated fats are found in vegetable oils (olive, sunflower, corn and canola oils), as well as avocados, almonds, pistachios, walnuts and pine seeds.
- Omega-3 fatty acids: who hasn’t heard about the healthy Omega-3 fatty acids found in oily fish! Studies have shown that a diet rich in Omega-3 fatty acids may help lower triglycerides, lower high blood pressure, and increase HDL cholesterol. Omega-3 fatty acids also help prevent blood from clotting. The Omega-3 fatty acids are mostly concentrated in oily fish such as mackerel, salmon, sardines, as well as in walnuts, almonds and flaxseed.
- Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs): Essential for growth and brain, EFAs are mainly found in fish, nuts and vegetable oils. EFA are essential to children’s physical growth and mental development and they can also
- Promote healthy skin
- Elevate the mood
- Improve cognitive function in the elderly
Good to Remember:
Did you know that 1 teaspoon of butter has the same calories as 1 teaspoon of oil? Remember that both of them are high in calories as 1 teaspoon of fat can have between 45-50 calories and that is why though it is recommended to choose the oil, take into consideration that you do so in moderate amounts to prevent weight gain.
Fats in moderation- What you can do to choose healthy fats in your diet:
- Replace saturated fats with unsaturated fats. So use vegetable oil such as olive oil, corn oil and canola oil in moderate amounts rather than margarine or butter.
- Use healthy cooking methods such as grilling, baking, steaming or stir-frying with minimal amounts of fat rather than plain frying.
- Trim all visible fat from beef, and remove the skin from poultry before eating.
- Choose low-fat or fat-free milk and dairy products.
- Read the ingredient list on food products and choose foods that have less than 3 grams of fat for every 100 calories of serving.
- Eat oily fish at least twice a week and a little bit of nuts to benefit from the healthy fats.
It is helpful to know the source of the fat you are eating. A general rule of thumb is “vegetable origin” is healthier than “animal origin.” As we always say: moderation is key in consuming all types of fat, because regardless of the source of fat, all of them are high in calories and can cause weight gain.