Fats are and have always been an important part of our diet. What you need to know is the health effects of different kinds of fats are like night and day. Some fats are very good for you and some fats are very bad.
Fats, oils, and lipids
The words “fats,” “oils,” and “lipids” are all used to refer to the same substances. When we are talking about food, oil is usually the word used to refer to any fat that is liquid at normal room temperature (like olive oil) , while “fat” is usually used to refer to fat that is solid (like butter) at normal room temperature.
“Lipid” is used to refer to both liquid and solid fats, along with other related substances. The term lipid is used in the scientific and medical world to refer to fats in your blood stream in your body.
The word “oil” is used for any substance that does not mix with water and has a greasy feel. As the old saying goes, oil and water don’t mix. That’s why lipids in the blood stream need to have a protein coating to get where they are supposed to and they are called lipoproteins.
Types of Fat
You might see ads for foods that say they’re “low-fat” or “fat-free.” In the past, low-fat diets were recommended for health and to help people lose weight. But nutrition experts have found that fats are more complicated and that some kinds of fat are actually good for your health. As a bonus, fat in food helps people feel satisfied, so they don’t eat as much.
But that doesn’t mean a high-fat diet will be good for you. And some fats are better than others. Here are the three major types:
Unsaturated fats: (liquid at room temperature)
Some are called monounsaturated and some are called polyunsaturated. These are found in plant foods and fish. These may be good for heart health. They include corn, safflower, sunflower, sesame, soybean, cottonseed, olive, peanut, canola, nuts and avocado. The best of the unsaturated fats are found in olive oil, peanut oil, canola oil, albacore tuna, and salmon.
Olive oil in particular is good for your arteries because an ingredient called phenol helps keep your arteries “elastic.”
Saturated fats: (solid at room temperature)
These fats are found in meat and other animal products, such as meat, butter, cheese, lard, and all milk except skim. Saturated fats are also in palm and coconut oils, which are often used in commercial baked goods (the kind you buy at the store).
They can raise both LDL and HDL cholesterol. You should limit to no more than 7% of daily calories.
Trans fats: (Manufactured fats)
These are manufactured fats (unsaturated fats that are treated to make them saturated so they will have long shelf life) that are found in margarine, especially the sticks. Trans fats are also found in certain foods that you buy at the store or in a restaurant, such as cookies, crackers, cakes, French fries, margarine, onion rings, and donuts as examples..
Why are trans fats bad? They can inflame and stiffen your arteries.
When you see “hydrogenated” or “partially hydrogenated” oils on an ingredient list, the food contains trans fats. Trans fats are also listed on the food label. Like saturated fats, trans fats can raise cholesterol and increase the risk of heart disease.
How to tell the good from the bad
Bad fats. There are two kinds of fats you want to avoid whenever you can.
It’s easy to tell a saturated fat because it’s solid at room temperature. Just remember that saturated fat is found in all animal products whether meat or dairy.
Food producers make them and use them because of their long shelf life. They are found in some cookies, crackers, cakes, French fries, margarine, fried onion rings and donuts. They are also used in deep frying at a number of fast food places. They are wicked because they can inflame and stiffen your arteries.
Good fats are unsaturated fats that are in their natural state. They are divided into Polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats but you don’t need these definitions.
They’re found mainly in many fish, nuts, seeds and oils from plants. Some examples of foods that contain these fats include salmon, trout, herring, avocados, olives, walnuts and liquid vegetable oils such as soybean, corn, safflower, canola, olive and sunflower.
Virgin olive oil. It’s at the top of the list because olive oil contains an ingredient called phenol, that helps keep your arteries “elastic.” That’s important because “elastic” arteries means your arteries can handle sudden changes in your blood flow – a key to preventing a heart attack.
Fish oil. Fish oil is good for you as long as it is not contaminated by mercury. The benefits are why it is recommended that you eat fish several times a week.
Saturated fats make you feel hungrier
According to RealAge.com, that fatty bacon cheeseburger may be loaded with calories, but at least it stomps out your hunger. Right?
Not necessarily. Compared to low-fat meals with the same number of calories, meals high in saturated fat will produce lower levels of leptin — a hormone that turns off appetite. Here’s how to get leptin levels up.
All fats, saturated and unsaturated, have 9 calories per gram. Because they provide equal amounts of energy, you’d think all fats satisfy your appetite in the same way. But they don’t.
Healthy fats leave you feeling full
To get leptin levels up, you need to eat healthful unsaturated fats. You’ll find them in nuts, seeds, olives, fish, avocados, and vegetable oils. These are mono-unsaturated fats.
And while you’re cutting back on hunger-amping sat fat, watch your alcohol intake, too. Alcohol also inhibits leptin.
YOU: On a Diet. Roizen, M. F., Oz, M. C., New York: HarperCollins, 2006.
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