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Basic facts to understanding healthy dietary fats

FOR years we’ve been told that eating fat will add inches to our waistline, raise cholesterol, and cause a myriad of health problems. But now we know that not all fat is the same. While bad fats can wreck your diet and increase your risk of certain diseases, good fats can protect your brain and heart.

In fact, healthy fats are vital to your physical and emotional health and by understanding the difference between good and bad fats and how to include more healthy fat in your diet; you can improve your mood, boost your energy and well-being, and even lose weight. Note that fat is an essential nutrient for our bodies which provides energy and helps our guts in absorbing certain vitamins from foods.

There’s still this misconception that eating fat of any kind is bad since it will lead to heart attacks, or weight gain discouraging people from eating healthy fats. Research has shown that unsaturated fats are good for you. These fats come mostly from plant sources. Cooking oils that are liquid at room temperature, such as canola, peanut, safflower, soybean, and olive oil, contain mostly unsaturated fat.

Nuts, seeds and avocados are also good sources. Fatty fish such as salmon, sardines, and herring are rich in unsaturated fats, too. Studies have also found that replacing saturated fats in your diet with unsaturated fats can reduce your risk of heart disease by about the same amount as cholesterol-lowering drugs.

People should actively make unsaturated fats a part of their diet. Low-fat diets have the same effect on body weight gain or weight loss as higher-fat diets, or higher-protein diets do. We need a certain amount of fat in our diets to stay healthy. Fats provide needed energy in the form of calories.

Fats help our bodies absorb important vitamins called fat-soluble vitamins including vitamins A, D and E. Fats also make foods more flavorful and help us feel full. They are especially important for infants and toddlers, because dietary fat contributes to proper growth and development.

Problems arise, though, if we eat too much fat since dietary fats have more than twice as many calories per gram as either proteins or carbohydrates like sugar and starch. Excess calories, of course, can pack on the pounds and raise your risk for diabetes, cancer and other conditions.

Eating the “wrong” kinds of fats can trigger additional health hazards since some fats are better for our bodies than others, therefore we should really aim to eat the right types of fats. Unsaturated fats are considered “good” fats and are sometimes listed as “monounsaturated” and “polyunsaturated” fat on Nutrition Facts labels. These can promote health if eaten in the right amounts.

They are generally liquid at room temperature and are known as oils. You’ll find healthful unsaturated fats in fish, nuts and most vegetable oils, including canola, corn, olive and safflower oils. The so-called “bad” fats are saturated and trans-fats. They tend to be solid at room temperature. Solid fats include butter, meat fats, stick margarine, shortening, and coconut and palm oils.

They’re often found in chocolates, baked goods and deep-fried and processed foods. When we eat too many solid fats, we put our bodies at risk. These fats tend to raise total blood cholesterol, as well as the part of cholesterol known as low-density lipoprotein (LDL), cholesterol and when those cholesterol levels are too high, it’s a risk factor for cardiovascular disease.

Note that when there’s too much cholesterol in the blood, the excess can get trapped in artery walls and build up. The buildup can develop into atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries, which can lead to coronary heart disease. Experts say that the total fat intake for adults ages 19 and older should be 20 percent to 35 percent of the calories eaten each day.

For children ages 4 to 18, it should be 25 percent to 35 percent, but instead of obsessively counting fat grams, aim for a diet rich in a variety of vegetables, fruit, nuts, and beans, with two or more weekly servings of fatty fish, moderate amounts of dairy, small amounts of red meat, and only occasional fried or processed meals.

This might mean replacing fried chicken with grilled chicken, swapping out some of the red meat you eat with other sources of protein such as fish, chicken, or beans, or using olive oil rather than butter. Following a HYPERLINK “https://www.helpguide.org/articles/diets/the-mediterranean-diet.htm” Mediterranean diet can also help ensure you’re getting enough good fats in your diet and limiting the bad ones.

Try to eliminate trans-fats from your diet and limit your intake of saturated fats by replacing some of the red meat you eat with beans, nuts, poultry, and fish, and switching from whole milk dairy to lower fat versions. But don’t make the mistake of replacing saturated fat with refined carbohydrates and sugary foods.

Eat omega-3 fats every day by including a variety of fish sources as well as plant sources such as walnuts, ground flax seeds, flaxseed oil, canola oil, and soybean oil. Try Cooking with olive oil, eat more avocados and dress your own salad. Since commercial salad dressings are often high in unhealthy fat or added sugars.

Create your own healthy dressings with olive, flaxseed, or sesame oils. Remember, good fats are essential for general health so choose wisely, store safely, consume fresh (by buying in small quantities) and your health will greatly prosper! Monitoring your body fats will help you attain optimum wellbeing and fertility. Note that good fats and excellent health and fertility go hand in hand.

Author: By Rachel Masibo

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