Different Types of Fat
The United States is notorious for over-consuming fat which has been linked to various chronic diseases. The concern got so big that we started banishing fat from our diet completely. But this didn't make us any healthier. The problem was that we were cutting back on the healthy fats as well.
Not all fats are bad for you, according to the Seven Countries Study done in the 1960's.
Surprisingly, the study found that people in the Mediterranean region ate a high fat diet but didn't experience the high rate of heart disease that we see in America. The big difference was that the high rate of fat they were consuming was not the same saturated animal fats that are common in the countries that experienced high rates of heart disease.
These findings led to the increased interest in the Mediterranean diet and the use of Olive Oil in more dishes. It was found that eating unsaturated fats is highly beneficial to your health.
Healthy forms of fat in our diet helps our body absorb vitamins and minerals. They are an excellent source of energy and support brain health. They are also vital for helping our body build cell membranes, protecting our nerves. Fat is essential for blood clotting, muscle movement, and inflammation, according to Harvard Medical School.
But there are healthy fats and unhealthy fats. Knowing the difference and getting the unhealthy fats out of your diet will give you the best health results.
So let's just get right down to it, Trans fats are the worst! Trans fats are found in foods like French fries and commercial cookies and pastries. If you look at the ingredients on your food labels, you'll see Trans fats listed as partially hydrogenated oils. Deceptive, huh?
Hydrogenation is the process that turns healthy oils into solids which helps the food item keep longer. The problem is that this increases the amount of harmful LDL cholesterol in the bloodstream and decreases the beneficial HDL cholesterol. As a result, we have inflammation which leads to heart disease, strokes, diabetes, etc.
Research shows that Trans fat, even in small amounts, is harmful to our health. It showed that just 2% of calories consumed daily from Trans fat raises the risk of heart disease by 23%! Harvard Medical School concludes that there is no safe level of consumption for Trans fats as well as no known health benefits.
Simply put, treat them as if they were poison to your body.
These fats aren't really considered unhealthy...but they should be eaten in moderation. Saturated fats are super common and are found in things like red meat, whole milk, cheese, coconut oil, baked goods, etc.
Recent studies couldn't conclude that saturated fats increase the risk of heart disease. But the problem is that too many saturated fats in your diet can drive up your total cholesterol which can drive up the more harmful LDL cholesterol leading to blockages in your arteries.
For this reason, nutrition experts recommend no more than 10% of your daily calories come from consumption of saturated fats.
Healthy fats come from foods like vegetables, nuts, seeds, and fish. The big difference in these fats, that you can tell, is that healthy fats do not become solid at room temperature. Think of grease that turns to solid if you let it sit in the pan and cool...that's not really good!
Polyunsaturated fats are absolutely essential for our bodies to function. These are your Omega-3 fatty acids. These fats are used to cover nerves and build cell membranes. They are essential for blood clotting, muscle movement, and inflammation as well.
Your body can't make polyunsaturated fats so you have to get them from food. They are found in corn oil, canola oil, sunflower oil, unhydrogenated soybean oil, and safflower oil, etc. Basically if you're pouring oil into your skillet to cook, it's probably polyunsaturated fat. You can also get Omega-3 fatty acids from fatty fish like salmon, sardines, and mackerel, as well as flaxseeds and walnuts.
Not only do these fats improve your cholesterol profile by reducing the harmful LDL cholesterol, but it also decreases triglycerides.
According to Harvard Health, Omega-3 fatty acids have the following benefits:
- Helps prevent and treat heart disease and stroke
- Reduces blood pressure
- Increases HDL Cholesterol
- Decreases Triglycerides
- Helps prevent lethal heart rhythms
- My help Rheumatoid Arthritis symptoms
Like polyunsaturated fats, monounsaturated fats are also helpful in many ways. In fact, the Institute of Medicine recommends completely replacing both saturated fats and trans fats with poly and mono unsaturated fats. They recommend consuming both as much as possible.
Monounsaturated fats are typically found in olive oil, canola oil, peanut oil, safflower oil, sesame oil, avocados, nuts, and seeds. When you go to a restaurant and dip your bread into an olive oil blend, you are consuming monounsaturated fats.
Women who eat a diet rich in monounsaturated fats were found to have decreased instances of breast cancer, according to a Swedish research team.
High cholesterol has been linked to heart disease and strokes which can lead to death. But monounsaturated fats have been shown to decrease the levels of bad cholesterol in the blood, thus reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke.
High consumption of monounsaturated fats combined with exercise can be great for weight loss. Studies showed that a higher consumption of monounsaturated fats compared to saturated fats yielded up to 4.3% higher resting energy expenditure. This means there were 4.3% more calories burned regardless of activity level. Researches believe that this is linked to mitochondria burning off more energy as heat.
Monounsaturated fats also help reduce inflammation in the body. For those of us that suffer from Rheumatoid Arthritis, this is an awesome benefit as our particular type of arthritis causes inflammation in the joints which results in pain and swelling.
Tips to Increase Your Monounsaturated Fats
- Check out the salad dressings from the Mediterranean diet. They are rich in olive oil. Making your own salad dressings with extra virgin olive oil to create a delicious dressing is a great way to increase your good fats.
- Using olive oil and sautéing your vegetables tastes amazing while also improving your diet.
- Eat more avocadoes. Replace the butter spread on your toast with avocado for a much healthier breakfast.
- Choose better snacks. Instead of grabbing the chips and chocolate, have some mixed nuts, seeds, or dried fruit available as a healthier replacement. Almonds, cashews, and macadamias are excellent choices. Raisins, cranberries, and banana chips can give that hint of sweetness you're craving. Be careful though, nuts are high in calories so eat them in moderation. A small handful each day is plenty to gain the benefits of these healthy fats.
- Dry roasted seeds make a great snack as well. Just be sure not to get the seeds with added flavors or sugars.
Don't go eliminating fat from your diet. The roadrunner in you will appreciate you paying attention to which fats you're consuming in order to improve your heart health and help some of the other conditions you may be experiencing or prone to developing.
A small lifestyle change in the way you snack can make a ton of difference in your life. Let us know in the comments at the bottom if you've found some snacks that provide the healthy fats, we would love to hear from you.
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