Good Fat/Bad Fat – Do you know the difference?

Fat. The mere word makes some people cringe. And in the 90’s there was a deliberate push in the healthcare industry to banish it from our diets. But now we know the truth is that some dietary fats are essential to keeping in shape and staying healthy. For example, you need a certain amount of fat to help your body break down and utilize the nutrients and vitamins in the food you eat. Some fats have even been shown to lower your risk of heart disease and cancer. So, how do you know which fats to choose?

Sometimes the answer is obvious. The fat in avocados and olives is better for you than the fat in a doughnut. It’s clear you should choose a handful of nuts over a fist full of chips. To make the distinction simple across the board you can divide fats into three categories:

  • Unsaturated fats:  Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated are the fats found in most vegetable and plant-based oils like avocado and olive oils. Nuts and nut butter are a source of these good fats. Omega-3 fats also fall into this category and are found in fatty fish like salmon and mackerel, flaxseeds, walnuts and soybeans.
  • Saturated fats:  Saturated fats are mostly animal based. You’ll find them in meats including beef, pork and poultry and dairy products like butter, milk and cheese. It’s best to consume these foods in moderation.
  • Trans fats:  Trans fats are the bottom of the barrel of dietary fats and those you should avoid. Without getting too scientific, trans fats are made by adding hydrogen to vegetable oil. It’s the fat found in margarine and shortening. On food labels you’ll see it listed as partially hydrogenated oil. You’ll find trans fats in many baked goods made with shortening like cakes, cookies, pie crusts and crackers. Deep fried foods are also often loaded with trans fats as are some snacks like corn and potato chips.

Keep in mind all fats contain the same number of calories — nine per gram — so excessive amounts of even healthy fats can compromise your diet.

Don’t Skip the Dressing

If you think you’re making a healthy decision by choosing low fat or non fat dressing for your salad, the truth is you’re not doing yourself any favors. Nutritionists say a salad with no fat is not nearly as good for you. Even the most colorful salad of vegetables and greens needs a healthy fat to boost its power. A Purdue University study suggests using a moderate amount of an olive oil based dressing. Its monounsaturated fats are just what your body needs to reap all the nutritional benefits of your salad.

 

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