Thursday, May 12, 2016

The Ugly, the Bad and the Good about Fats

Contributing Author: The Tortoise

In Monday's post, we talked about the different kinds of fats, and the three categories of them. There is good news and bad news about fats. Today, let's start off with the bad news and end on a better note.

Fats can be divided into 'good' or 'bad' fats, depending on whether they help or harm the body. Saturated fats and trans fats are considered 'bad' fats because they cause changes to your body which increase cardiovascular risks. Saturated fats increase LDL ('bad' cholesterol) and triglyceride levels (a type of fat converted from excess calories and stored in the fat cells), raise your blood pressure, and narrow your blood vessels1. Trans fat, or partially-hydrogenated vegetable oil, is considered to be even worse for your health, because it raises your 'bad' (LDL) cholesterol while lowering your 'good' (HDL) cholesterol, a combination which increases the risk of heart disease even more2.

The Bad News Boys: Saturated and Trans Fats

Some Saturated Fats
These foods contain higher levels of 'bad' fats. You should be careful to moderate your intake of them.

Foods with Higher Levels of Saturated Fat

  • Beef, Pork, Lamb, Goat meat
  • Full-fat milk, Full-fat cheese, Butter
  • Chicken thighs, Chicken skin
  • Coconut oil, Palm oil

Foods with Partially Hydrogenated Oil, a Source of Trans Fat

  • Baked goods containing shortening (cakes, cookies, pies, crackers)
  • Ready-made frosting
  • Snack foods (such as microwave popcorn), Potato crisps
  • Non-dairy creamers, Margarines
  • Any food fried in partially-hydrogenated oil

When information came to light about the health effects of trans fat on people, some producers of these foods developed new, trans fat free, formulations of their products.

Ready For Some Good News?

Avocado, a Good Fat
Unsaturated fats are the good guys here, having been shown to lower blood pressure, improve lipid levels, decrease LDL ('bad' cholesterol) and increase HDL ('good' cholesterol), all of which improve cardiovascular health3. Studies also suggest that eating unsaturated fats, or 'good' fats, may decrease the risk of type-2 diabetes4. We are encouraged to choose more of these fats.

Foods with High Levels of ‘Good’ Fats

  • Olive oil, canola oil, peanut oil, sunflower oil, sesame oil, corn oil
  • Sesame seeds, flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, pecans, hazelnuts, almonds, pistachios
  • Salmon, mackerel, herring, tuna, trout, sardines, bluefish, halibut
  • Avocados, soybeans

1 Good Fats, Bad Fats, Eleanor Roberts
2 Trans fat is double trouble for your heart health, Mayo Clinic
3 Good Fats, Bad Fats, Eleanor Roberts
4 Dietary Fats: Know which types to choose, Mayo Clinic

Good Fats, Bad Fats, Eleanor Roberts
Foods High in Unsaturated Fat, Alia Butler,
Eating Fish for Heart Health, American Heart Association
Polyunsaturated Fats, American Heart Association

Photos from Pixabay.

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