Many people think of fat as something that should be stayed away from. Grocery store shelves are lined with low-fat options of all our favorite foods, and many diet plans attempt to eliminate fats wherever possible.
However, getting rid of all fats can actually cause health problems in some cases. This is because when fats are taken out of our foods, we lose the good fats along with the bad fats.
Certain fats are necessary for the human body. Both good and bad fats are similar in their chemical structures, but slight differences in structure equal major differences in the way the different fats function. Fats can generally be put into categories of good, bad, or neutral, depending on how they affect the body.
There are certain kinds of fats that our bodies should avoid. One of the most commonly known bad fats is trans fat. Trans fat is a result of hydrogenating oils, a process which prevents oils from going bad. Unfortunately, this process turns healthy oils into unhealthy fats. This is why you may have heard that you should avoid hydrogenated oils.
It can be difficult to find foods made without hydrogenated oils. Fast food is generally known for being made with hydrogenated oils, and many other popular grocery store items have hydrogenated oil in their ingredient lists.
Why you should avoid bad fats:
Eating a diet with many trans fats increases bad cholesterol and decreases good cholesterol. Trans fat has also been shown to increase the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and stroke. As far as we know, there is nothing good about trans fats, and thankfully, efforts are being made to decrease these fats in food.
Saturated fats are most often found in whole milk, cheese, and red meat, and may be considered neutral because of the effect that they have on the body. Like trans fat, saturated fat can increase cholesterol. However, saturated fats increase both good and bad cholesterol, leading nutrition experts to recommend limiting the number of saturated fats a person consumes.
Good, healthy fats are most commonly found in good, healthy foods. Some examples of foods with good fats in them are:
The two different kinds of good fats are monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.
Monounsaturated fats are in olive oil, canola oil, avocados and many nuts. Instead of limiting these kinds of fats, you should try replacing trans and saturated fats with them – meaning you can consume as much of these healthy fats as you’d like.
Polyunsaturated fats come from sunflower, corn, and safflower oils. Polyunsaturated fats are known as essential fats. They are necessary for the human body, but humans cannot produce these fats on their own. The body uses polyunsaturated fats to maintain healthy blood and muscles, to build cell membranes, and to keep inflammation down.
Replacing saturated fats with polyunsaturated fats reduces bad cholesterol, which reduces the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and stroke. The two main kinds of polyunsaturated fats are omega -3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Omega-3s are found in fish like salmon and sardines and in walnuts, flaxseeds, and canola oil.
How can I make sure I am consuming good fats?
The amount of information about fats and how they influence the body can be overwhelming, but there are some simple things you can do to ensure that you are getting the healthy fats your body needs.
- Reduce the number of trans and saturated fats you consume, and replace those fats with monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats.
- Eat a diet rich in good fats by incorporating more vegetables and healthy oils into meals and decreasing processed foods and hydrogenated oils.
- Be conscientious about the oils you use to cook with.
- Take fish oil supplements if necessary. Some people take supplements to help with including the necessary amount of omega-3s in their diets.
- Talk to a doctor or nutritionist about losing weight healthily to avoid accidentally eliminating good, necessary fats from your diet. Crisp Regional has an excellent team of physicians who specialize in safe, healthy weight loss.
The most important thing to remember about fats is that not all fats are bad. To stay healthy, make sure you don’t cut out the healthy fats that your body needs. Generally, sticking to natural, unprocessed, healthy foods will ensure that you are eating a healthy diet and consuming everything you need, including healthy fats.