Fats: The Good and the Ugly

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Fat is a major part in the body’s composition and people need fat to survive. Fat helps absorb nutrients such as vitamins A, D, E, and K and provides a feeling of fullness. Not to mention, fats give foods their rich flavor and texture. Many health problems can arise from a high fat diet. Do not be fooled, not all the fats are bad. There are four fats which are essential in your daily diet.

What are the good fats?

Unsaturated fats such as polyunsaturated and monounsaturated are healthy. These fats raise good, or HDL cholesterol and lower bad, or LDL cholesterol. Along with a healthy diet, unsaturated fats have been shown to lower the risk of coronary heart disease, which is the leading cause of death in the United States. Polyunsaturated fats are liquid at room and refrigerator temperature. This includes sesame, soy, corn, safflower, or sunflower seed oils. Monounsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature, but solid in the refrigerator. Olive, canola, peanut oils, and avocadoes are examples of monounsaturated fats.

What are the ugly fats?

Saturated and trans fat are considered less desirable fats. Saturated fats raise total and LDL cholesterol in the blood. These fats are solid at room temperature and include foods such as meat, dairy, eggs, palm oil, and coconut oil. Trans fat is a relatively new fat because it is man made, originating in the early 1900’s. Trans fat is manufactured through a process called hydrogenation. Meaning hydrogen molecules are added to an unsaturated fat, mainly to vegetable oil. The liquid fat turns into a solid at room temperature. An example of this type of fat is the once popular product Crisco. A brilliant idea at the time to increase shelf life of food, but now shown to be very unhealthy causing increased levels of LDL cholesterol and a greater risk of obesity. Common foods with trans fat include cookies, crackers, other commercially baked goods, French fries, donuts, and other commercially fried foods. The American Heart Association recommends less than 2 grams of trans fat be consumed in a daily diet. Avoiding all foods with trans fat is of course best. Reading nutrition labels on the back of food products provides information on the amount of unsaturated, saturated, and trans fat present.

Helpful tips to prevent coronary heart disease:

  • Eat a colorful variety of fruits and vegetables
  • Eat a variety of grain products, including whole grains
  • Eat fatty fish
  • Eat fat-free and low-fat milk products
  • Eat other foods such as legumes (beans), skinless poultry and lean meats
  • Choose fats and oils that have 2 grams or less saturated fat such as margarines, canola, corn, safflower, soy bean, and olive oils
  • Exercise daily
  • Meet with a dietitian to asses your diet

Information from: The American Heart Association @ http://www.americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml? identifier=4582; The U.S. Food and Drug Administration @ http://www.fda.gov/FDAC/ features/2003/503_fats.html. Nutrition Education for FEBRUARY 2008. Produced by Meals On Wheels, Inc. of Tarrant County by Crystal Sherman, nutrition intern for Sherry Simon, R.D./L.D. For questions regarding nutrition education contact Denise Blevins, Director of Nutrition Services for Meals On Wheels, Inc. of Tarrant County, at 817-336-0912 or email dblevins@mealsonwheels.org.  

Posted in Nutritional Education.

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