Confused by fats? We find the difference between good fats and bad fats and their effects on your cholesterol and nutrition.
Human bodies need fat. It helps keep our skin soft and supple, delivers vitamins to the right parts of the body, provides fatty acids for joints and ligaments, helps build a healthy heart and provides fuel for energy. But not all fats are created equal! Too much fat, or the wrong kind of fat is bad news and can lead to weight gain, heart disease and will promote type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer, especially breast cancer in women and colon cancer in men. But how can you tell by looking at a meal whether it’s packing good or bad fat? Here’s the beginner’s guide:
Basically there are two groups of fats: saturated and unsaturated.
Unsaturated fats are the good guys. These include polyunsaturated fats and monounsaturated fats, which can both help lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease. Polyunsaturated fats are found in vegetable oils and omega-3 fatty acids in salmon and trout, flaxseed and walnuts. Monosaturated fats are rich in Vitamin E and can be found in olives, avocados, almonds, and cashews.
Saturated and trans fatty acids are the bad guys. Saturated fats are found in fatty meat, high-fat dairy and eggs. That’s a bit of a shock for most of us. While these foods are still highly nutritious, they should only ideally make up 10% of your diet.
Trans fatty acids are liquid oils that have been artificially hardened into a new kind of fat. This fat is used in more processed types of foods, like baked goods, snack foods, margarine, microwave popcorn and fast food frying. It’s these fats that have been found to increase the risk of heart disease.
The Anti-Fat Project
Avoiding bad fats means knowing what you’re really eating. But without getting too deep into the confusing world of good fats vs. bad fats, there are three things you can do today to make a difference to your diet and your body:
1. Start reading the ingredients labels on your food and avoid products rich in trans fats.
2. Researchers have proven that a diet brimming with whole grains, fruits and vegetables minimises the chance of accidental bad-fat foods. Try a vegetarian meal once a week.
3. Making the swap to canola or olive oil when cooking instead of butter or margarine also makes a huge difference.
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