Almost everyone is aware that fat is not good for our health. A high fat diet can lead to various health problems such as weight gain, high cholesterol, and heart disease. But fats are not all bad.
There are four types of fat. These are saturated, monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, and trans fats. Now, which of these fats are good and which are unhealthy?
Saturated and trans fats are both harmful and can block the arteries. We can determine their amounts in a single product through nutrition labels. Trans fat, in particular, can increase bad cholesterol or low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and decrease good cholesterol counterpart or high-density lipoprotein (HDL). Therefore, it could limit the supply of blood in the heart, leading to coronary artery disease and stroke.
However, in the United States, trans fat that is below 0.5 gram in a serving may be listed as 0 gram. Therefore, the nutritional facts are not just a simple part of the package but are also important so that we would be able to determine the total content of fats present in a product. This section is usually labeled as partially hydrogenated oils.
Trans fats, usually labeled as partially hydrogenated oils, are scientifically made by combining hydrogen and oil for food preservation. The American Heart Association suggests limiting the intake of trans fat to less than 2 grams a day. Foods that have trans fat include margarine, cakes, cookies, crackers, pies and French fries.
Like trans fat, saturated fat also affects the levels of cholesterol. It increases LDL that also increases heart disease risk. Cheesecakes, cookies, hamburgers, French fries, and junk foods also contain this fat. They are primarily seen in meats such as steak and bacon. Therefore, if we will limit eating red meat then we can avoid saturated fats. It would be better if we choose eating more fruits and vegetables than animal products.
On the other hand, unsaturated fats, together with monounsaturated and polyunsaturated, are good for the heart as they help lower cholesterol. Monounsaturated fats help control the levels of glucose and insulin. Polyunsaturated fats help reduce heart disease risk since it contain both omega-3 and omega-6 fats.
The omega-3 is usually found in fish. It helps lower the levels of blood pressure, decrease bad cholesterol, and then reduce coronary artery disease. It also promotes proper function of cells. Therefore, we have to look for foods containing these good fats because our body cannot produce omega-3 or omega-6 fatty acids. The foods that can make these fats are nuts, seeds, and fatty fish like salmon.
However, good fats are not included on the nutrition label list. We have to subtract the amount of saturated fats and trans fat from the total amount of fats in a food to get the total value of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.
Unsaturated fats are found in avocados, peanut butter, and oils from canola, olive, and soybean. But we should avoid deep frying. Unlike the fats produced from liquids, solid fats are likely to have saturated fats. Generally, each fat contains 9 calories per gram. Therefore, high fat foods have higher calories and should be avoided if we want to lose weight.
Aside from regularly visiting our doctor in medical uniform, we have to be smart too in choosing fats if we want a healthy heart.