Get on board with the good fats
One of the biggest components of heart health is …FAT. No question about it. But let’s not give it a bad rap. We need fats for our body to function. They are essential in a daily diet and avoiding them all together means you are depriving your body of nutrients it NEEDS. Fat has become a household dirty name because it is very calorically dense – meaning a little bit goes a long way. Americans tend to go overboard on them, which causes numerous medical problems and obesity.
Did you know that 20-35% of your daily calorie intake should come from healthy fats?
Why do we need it, you ask?
- growth and development
- vitamin absorption
- maintenance of cell membranes
- cushioning for your organs
- Provides taste, consistency, and stability to foods
So in summary, fats are great. Too much is no bueno. Are you seeing a reoccurring theme in my posts? MODERATION IS KEY 🙂
Have you heard of the term “good fat” or “bad fat” before? these terms are helpful for determining what kind of oils to cook with – but it’s important to understand why they are labeled good and bad.
Let’s review the different types of fats. Chemically, they differ in their carbon – carbon bonds. For simplicity, we will review the basics.
- occur naturally in foods, the majority found in animal products
- AHA recommends limiting intake to ~100 calories a day (depending on your daily calorie intake)
- Solid at room temperature
- Saturated fats raise the cholesterol level in blood
- Fatty beef
- Lamb, pork
- Poultry with skin
- Lard and cream, butter and cheese
- Other dairy products made from whole or 2% milk
- Baked goods, fried foods
- Some plant oils (palm, kernel, coconut) have saturated fats, but no cholesterol
- Sound the alarm! Someone said TRANS fat! The most common type of bad fat we hear about has a bad reputation for a reason. Most trans fats are created in an industrial process (i.e. artificial) that adds hydrogen to liquid vegetable oils to make them more solid.
- Also known as partially hydrogenated oil – don’t let this word confuse you – it means trans fat
- NOTE: There is such thing as a naturally-occurring trans fat. They are produced in the gut of some animals and foods made from these animals, like milk and meat products and may contain small quantities of trans fats.
- Trans fats raise LDL (bad cholesterol), increases the risk of heart disease and strokes, and is associated with type 2 diabetes. Because they are artificially synthesized, they aren’t broken down the same way -cis fats are (naturally occurring fats). This leads to clogged arteries.
- The FDA is on your side! It is now mandated that nutrition labels list trans fats in foods. If a food has 0.5 gm or more of trans fats in it, it will be on the label. Yay!
- It is recommended to AVOID these. Try to live trans fat-free
- Processed foods (Keyword: Hydrogenated Oils)
- Fried foods, baked goods, frozen pizza, cookies, crackers
- Many foods in restaurants will have trans fats. It’s always important to plan ahead and check out the nutritional facts on a restaurant’s website to check for trans fats – or ask your server, I’m sure they will love it 😉
UNSATURATED FATS – MONO AND POLY
There are 2 categories of unsaturated fats – mono and poly. These are the fats that are easily broken down in your body and will help unclog those arteries and provide multiple health benefits
- Liquid at room temperature, start to turn solid when chilled
- Reduced bad cholesterol (HDL), lower risk for heart disease, stroke
- Positive health effects when eaten in moderation. It is recommended to have the majority of your fat intake come from unsaturated fats (18-30% of daily caloric intake – which is roughly 40-66 gm per day) CHECK YOUR LABELS!
- They also provide essential fats (omega 3,6) that the body cannot produce
- Olive oil, canola oil, peanut oil, safflower oil, sesame oil, soybean oil, corn oil, sunflower oil
- Avocados, Peanut butter, Nuts/seeds, soybeans, flaxseed, tofu, olives
- Fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, herring, trout)
So now that you know a little bit about fat – it’s time to start making some healthier choices. Take a look inside your pantry. What are you using to cook with? Check the labels – are you falling within the recommended intakes discussed above? What kind of oils can you switch out? If you are using a saturated fat to cook with, like coconut oil, make the switch to a liquid oil – like olive oil or canola oil.
I hope this clears the air for any questions you have about fats. Please feel free to contact me for more questions or if you need further clarification – I’m happy to help!