Jo-Ann Heslin, (MA, RD, CDN, Food & Nutrition Columnist for HealthNewsDigest.com) gives an excellent overview on the confusing topic of fats. Excerpts from her article, Making Friends with Fats:
Triglyceridesare the most typical fat compound made up of smaller fat fragments called fatty acids. Triglycerides in foods can be solid (butter) or liquid (oils). Triglycerides can also be stored in your body as fat for future use as energy.
Fatty acids are the building blocks that make up fats. Every food with fat contains a mixture of different fatty acids, but we classify the food by the predominant fatty acid present. For example: butter is high in saturated fatty acids; olives are high in monounsaturated fatty acids; corn oil is high in polyunsaturated fatty acids. All three foods also contain the other types of fatty acids too, but in lesser amounts.
Saturated fat– eat less of this type of fat. Saturated fats are found in meat, whole milk, cheese, cream, butter, lard, poultry, bacon and sour cream. These fats raise cholesterol levels, raise LDL (bad) cholesterol values, and increase your risk for heart disease, stroke and cancer. You don’t have to eliminate all saturated fat from your diet, and that would be quite hard to do, but you can eat smaller amounts or choose lowfat and nonfat versions of some foods like milk.
You should know– not all saturated fat is bad for you. A good example is stearic acid, a saturated fatty acid found in beef and chocolate, which does not raise cholesterol levels. Lean cuts of beef and a small piece of chocolate are healthy choices.
Monounsaturated fats– use these fats to replace some of the saturated fat you eat.
Foods high in monounsaturated fat are: olives and olive oil, canola oil, peanuts and peanut oil, almonds, cashews, pine nuts, pistachios and avocados.These fats reduce cholesterol levels, reduce triglyceride levels, reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol levels, may lower blood pressure, and reduce your risk for diabetes.
You should know– many foods high in monounsaturated fats, like olives and nuts, are also high in calories. Keep the serving size a handful, not a canful.
Polyunsaturated fats– eat more of these fats. There are two types of polyunsaturated fats, omega-6 fats and omega -3 fats. We eat more omega-6 rich foods – sesame oil, soybean oil, soybeans, corn oil, nuts, seeds, soft margarine and wheat germ.
We don’t eat enough of the foods rich in omega-3 fats – flaxseeds, walnuts, herring, mackerel, tuna, sardines, salmon, and oysters.Research is showing that too many omega -6 fats and too few omega-3 fats may be contributing to our risk for cancer, heart disease and arthritis.
You should know– eating as little as two servings of fish a week can boost your intake of omega-3 fats and lower your risk for disease. Currently, many foods are being fortified with omega-3 fats and we still don’t know if the fortified foods will offer the same disease protection as those foods that naturally contain omega-3 fats.
Trans fats– eat as little as possible of these fats. Trans fats are rarely found naturally in foods. Two natural trans fats – CLA (conjugated linoleic acid) and VA (vaccenic acid) – may play a role in preventing cancer, heart disease, and diabetes.
We are more concerned with trans fats that are produced artificially when vegetable oil is hardened to make shortening, stick margarine and salad dressing.
The good news is that there is less and less trans fat in our food supply. In 2003, federal labeling regulations required that trans fat be included on the nutrition label. This prompted most manufacturers to remove trans fat from their products.
What does the future hold? The story of fats is still evolving and we have much more to learn. Here’s what we know so far:
- Eating too much of any type of fat is not a healthy option and can cause you to gain weight.
- Eating moderate amounts of the right fats – monounsaturated and polyunsaturated – can provide health benefits.
- Artificially produced trans fats – hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated fats – should be avoided.
- Natural trans fats – this story is still evolving but it looks promising.
This article courtesy of HealthNewsDigest.com.