Sunday, 13 January 2013

Not all fats are alike

While fats have generally gotten a bad reputation, not all fats are bad. Knowing the difference between good fats and bad fats can have a significant impact on your health. Saturated fats get their name from being saturated with hydrogen atoms. They can cause an unhealthy build-up of cholesterol (LDL, the bad cholesterol) and triglycerides in the body if consumed in excess — not a good thing. Saturated fats are found in foods from animal sources, such as meat and dairy products. Baked, fried, and processed foods are unfortunately also big donors of this unhealthy fat. The American Heart Association recommends that saturated fats comprise no more than 7 percent of your daily caloric intake. Trans fats can be found in processed foods, some stick margarines, and baked goods. Trans fats are created by a process called hydrogenation, whereby the polyunsaturated fats in vegetable oils are structurally altered. This alteration makes the oil more solid (kind of like saturated fats — think of butter that stays fairly solid at room temperature) and helps to slowdown spoilage of the oil. Unfortunately, it also turns healthy vegetable oils into unhealthy trans fats that are even worse for your heart and your health than saturated fats. Why? Because after being “partially hydrogenated,” the trans fats are more like saturated fats and less like the healthy polyunsaturated fats.

Unsaturated fats, on the other hand, are actually beneficial to your health. Polyunsaturated fats are simple fats with many (poly) double carbon bonds, while monounsaturated fats are simple fats with only one double carbon bond. You can feel good about eating these kinds of fat. Unlike saturated fats that increase bad cholesterol, unsaturated fats actually raise the good cholesterol and lower the bad. Monounsaturated fats are found in olive oil, nuts, and avocados. Polyunsaturated fats are found in canola oil, soy, nuts, seeds, fish, and seafood. Omega-3 fatty acids are one form of polyunsaturated fats that are particularly good for you because they fight inflammation in your body. You’ll find these fats in fish, seafood, soy, canola oil, flax, chia,
walnuts, and pumpkin seeds.

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