Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Do you know your fats?

The multitude of dieting rhetoric in our country may often lead to confusing, and sometimes misguided, ideas about what is healthy and what is not. Fat, for example, is often vilified, but not all fats are bad for us. In fact, some are essential. Here's a quick guide to what fats to look out for and what fats to avoid:

Saturated Fats: These fats have a chemical make-up which are saturated with hydrogen atoms since they lack the bonds that are in unsaturated fats. Most saturated fats are solid at room temperature. Saturated fats should be limited in diet since they raise LDL (bad) cholesterol. Here are some common examples:

*Animal products (meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy products, lard, butter)
* Coconut oil
* Palm oil

Unsaturated Fats: These fats, when used instead of other fats, can actually be good for you by lowering your risk for heart disease by moderately increasing HDL (good) cholesterol and helping lower LDL (bad). Be aware that if you heat unsaturated fats over 400 degrees or for a long period of time their nutritional value will decrease.

Polyunsaturated Fats: A type of unsaturated fat that contains two or more double bonds in their chemical structure. These fats have been shown to protect against heart disease more than monounsaturated fats. It is recommend that these compile 10% of your daily calorie intake. Common examples include:

* Peanut Butter
* Sunflower seeds
* Bananas
* Fish (contains essential Omega-3 fatty acids which have also been shown to report anti-cancer effects, brain health, and immune function)
* Flax seed (contains essential Omega-3 fatty acids)
* Walnuts (contains essential Omega-3 fatty acids)

Monounsaturated Fats: A type of unsaturated fat that contains one double bonds in their chemical structure. It is recommend that these compile 20% of your daily calorie intake. Common examples include

* Avocados
* Olive Oil
* Oatmeal
* Cereal

Trans Fats: These are fat molecules who's normal structures have been twisted and deformed by heating liquid vegetable oil and combining it with hydrogen gas. Since these fats are more stable and can withstand repeated heating more than unsaturated fats they are commonly used for frying and in packaged snack foods. Trans fats raise LDL (bad) cholesterol and lower HDL (good) cholesterol and have been linked to increasing the risk for heart disease. Common examples include:

* Packaged cake mixes
* Ramen noodle
* Donuts
* Fast food
* Cream-filled cookies

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