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Fast Facts, Fit Tips: Fats – Healthy or Not?

I may have been young, but I remember when the nutrition fad of the 80s and 90s was low-fat everything. All products had low-fat variations. The problem is, nothing tastes quite as good without a little fat, so those big food companies had to put something else in their products so people would actually buy them…. So they added sugar. And now we have a sugar problem. But that’s a topic for another time.

What is fat? It’s a macronutrient, along with carbohydrates and proteins, and your body needs it to stay healthy.

Fats give you energy, absorb vitamins, protect your brain and heart health, and help keep you full.

“Bad” fats include trans fats and saturated fats, which are in a lot of yummy baked goods (of course, right?). These fats are responsible for weight gain, clogged arteries, and an increased risk of certain diseases.

Small amounts of trans fats can be found in meat and dairy products, but it’s the artificial trans fats that are the most dangerous. Why? Because they increase your bad LDL cholesterol and create inflammation, which is a big factor in health conditions like heart disease, stroke, diabetes, etc. Trans fats include:

·       Pastries, cookies, doughnuts, muffins, cakes, pizza dough (homemade versions usually have less or no trans fats)

·       Packaged snack foods (crackers, microwave popcorn, chips)

·       Margarine and vegetable shortening

·       Fried foods (French fries, fried chicken, chicken nuggets, breaded fish)

·       Anything containing hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, even if it claims to be “trans fat-free”

Saturated fats aren’t technically as bad as trans fats, but too much can increase your bad LDL cholesterol and negatively impact your heart health. The goal with saturated fats is to limit them to 10% of your daily calories. Saturated fats include:

·       Red meat (beef, lamb, pork)

·       Chicken skin

·       Whole-fat dairy products (milk, cream, cheese)

·       Butter

·       Ice cream

·       Lard

·       Tropical oils such as coconut and palm oil

“Good” fats include monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, which actually do great things for your health, like helping you to manage your moods, they give you energy and fight fatigue, and can also help you control your weight by keeping your appetite in check.

“Good” fats impact your health in a lot of great ways, by:

·       Lowering your risk of heart disease and stroke

·       Lowering your bad LDL cholesterol levels, while increasing good HDL cholesterol levels

·       Preventing abnormal heart rhythms

·       Lowering triglycerides, which are associated with heart disease and help to fight inflammation

·       Lowering blood pressure

·       Preventing atherosclerosis (hardening and narrowing of the arteries)

These fats not only help make your food taste a little better, but they also help you feel fuller longer. Here are a variety of different mono- and polyunsaturated fats:

Monounsaturated fats

·       Olive, canola, peanut, and sesame oils

·       Avocados

·       Olives

·       Nuts (almonds, peanuts, macadamia, hazelnuts, pecans, cashews)

·       Peanut butter

Polyunsaturated fats

·       Sunflower, sesame, and pumpkin seeds

·       Flaxseed

·       Walnuts

·       Fatty fish (salmon, tuna, mackerel, herring, trout, sardines) and fish oil

·       Soybean and safflower oil

·       Soymilk

·       Tofu

I know that’s a lot of info. The take-away is this: Don’t go no-fat, go good-fats.