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Fats In Your Food - The Good Fats And The Bad Fats

Feb 29, 2008
We read and hear so much about the problems of fats in our foods these days. Its seems that some fats are bad fats and some are healthy fats - but what are they?

Saturated fats:

Saturated fats are high on the 'bad fats' list in our foods. They are found mostly in foods we get from animals, and from some plants.

Those from animals include pork, beef, veal, lamb, and poultry - and also foods derived from them - beef fat, lard, poultry fat, butter, cream, cheese and other dairy products made from whole milk.

The highest levels of saturated fats from plant sources in our foods are found in coconut oil, palm oil and palm kernel oil and in cocoa butter [which is used in making chocolate].

Why are saturated fats 'bad fats'?

Saturated fat is the main dietary cause of high blood cholesterol. It is recommended by heart health authorities that you should limit your saturated fat intake to 7-10 percent (preferably less) of your total calorie intake each day.

If you have coronary heart disease or if your LDL cholesterol level is higher than 100 mg/dL you should consult your doctor about the Therapeutic Lifestyle Change (TLC) Diet. In the TLC diet it is recommended that no more than 25% - 35% of your daily calorie intake should be from fat, and that the amount of saturated fat in your daily diet should be less than 7% of your daily calorie intake.

Trans fatty acids - also known as 'trans fat':

During food processing some fats undergo a chemical process called hydrogenation. This chemically changes the fats which limits your body's ability to regulate cholesterol when you have eaten these trans fats.

This chemical change occurs mostly commonly in the manufacture of margarine and shortening. Trans fats are widely found then in foods such as vegetable shortening and some margarines and in the many food products which use these in their manufacture - foods such as crackers, candies, baked goods, cookies, snack foods, fried foods, salad dressings, and many processed foods.

Trans fats are considered to be the most harmful to your health because there is a direct, proven relationship between diets high in trans fat content and LDL ("bad") cholesterol levels and, therefore, and increased risk of coronary heart disease - a leading cause of death in the US.

If you use hydrogenated fats, and it is difficult to eliminate them completely from your diet, ensure they contain no more than two grams of saturated fat per tablespoon. The saturated fat content of most margarines and spreads is printed on the package or on the Nutrition Facts label and you should always read these details carefully.

Unsaturated fats:

There are two unsaturated fats - polyunsaturated and monounsaturated. These are found primarily in oils derived from plants.

Polyunsaturated fats are found in safflower, sesame and sunflower seeds, corn and soybeans, many nuts and seeds, and the oils made from these seeds and nuts.

Monounsaturated fats are found in canola, olive and peanut oils, and in avocados.

Both polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats may help lower your blood cholesterol level when you use them in place of saturated fats in your diet. That is, in place of using fats with a high saturated fat content, such as butter, lard or hydrogenated shortenings.

However, you should realize that a moderate intake of all types of fat is best. Just because polyunsaturated or monounsaturated oils -- and margarines and spreads made from them -- are better for you, you should still only include limited amounts of them in your diet.

You can see from this discussion that there are "good" fats and "bad" ones. To put it simply, saturated fats and trans fat have bad effects on cholesterol levels. Polyunsaturated fats and monounsaturated fats, when eaten in moderation, have beneficial effects on your health.

This is general information only. If you have any queries or concerns about the fats you are currently including in your diet, and the effects they may be having on your health, you should consult your doctor to have your cholesterol levels checked. If you want more detailed information about what specific foods should or should not be included in your diet, ask your doctor to recommend you to a nutrition expert.
About the Author
John Vanse has a network of health related websites
These sites, and more information about cholesterol and healthy diets, can be accessed at:The Better Health Guide
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