Each type of fat affects us in different ways. It is essential that we eat some (the monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats), limit some (saturated fats), and try to eliminate some other ones (trans fats).
We absolutely need some fats because certain vitamins need fat for the body to be able to use them and some fats actually help our hearts and blood sugar. Now we need to discover which foods contain which fats.
Let’s start with the good ones.
MUFAs and PUFAs
Both MUFAs (monounsaturated fats) and PUFAs (polyunsaturated fats) fall into the category of healthy fats. A word of warning here though.
Just because they’re healthy doesn’t mean you should eat a lot of them. They are high in calories. So yes, you need them and yes, you should eat them, just not a lot of them.
Also, don’t eat them in addition to unhealthy fats; eat them instead of unhealthy fats.
So, what should you eat to get these MUFAs and PUFAs? Oils such as canola, olive, peanut, safflower, corn, sunflower, soy, cottonseed, and peanut are good choices.
Nuts and seeds are another option. Try almonds, pecans, pistachios, cashews, Brazil nuts, sunflower seeds, and sesame seeds.
Avocados can help you, and so can fatty fish like herring, mackerel, salmon, trout, and smelt. Some foods, like vegetable oils, and nuts and seeds, contain both MUFAs and PUFAs, as do non-hydrogenated margarines. (Health Canada)
This type of fat comes mostly from animal sources. It includes fatty cuts of meat, poultry with the skin on, butter, hard margarine, lard, and shortening. Although you don’t have to completely give up these sources of saturated fat, it is best to limit them. Try to also limit higher fat cheese, milk, and yogurt or choose a lower fat option. Tropical oils such as coconut oil and palm kernel oil also have saturated fat.
Okay, this is the big one which you should try to completely avoid. Trans fat is liquid unsaturated fat which is partially hydrogenated to make it a solid.
This makes it easier to work with and less likely to spoil. What’s wrong with that? Nothing, except for what it does to your body. Saturated fat is bad because it raises your LDL (bad) cholesterol.
Trans fat is worse because it not only raises your LDL cholesterol, it also lowers your HDL (good) cholesterol. Both actions can increase your risk of cardiovascular disease.
Hard margarine sticks, snack foods, and commercially prepared desserts such as cakes and cookies usually have trans fat. It’s also in packaged and processed foods, and fried foods.
How will you be able to tell if the package you’re considering buying has trans fat? In the US this should soon not be a problem because they are working to ban it. In other countries though, you can look at the nutrition facts label.
It will list any saturated fat and any trans fat in the product. For an easy rule of thumb, just remember that 5% or less is a little, and 15% or more is a lot.
Have zero trans fat as your goal. Have as little saturated fat as possible. Have approximately 2 to 3 tablespoons of MUFAs and PUFAs each day.
That amount includes fat from cooking foods, spreads such as margarine or mayonnaise, and salad dressings. (EatRight Ontario)
The bottom line? Keep on enjoying fats. Just pay attention to which type you’re eating and how much.
Health Canada. (2012, April 17). Fats: The Good the Bad and the Ugly
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