Fat is not just a four-letter word! Learn to choose the right fats to add flavour and boost your health simultaneously.
Along with all the protein and carbs, fats are essential to a good nourishment program. They contain more than twice the number of calories per gram as proteins and carbohydrates, so a small amount of fat contributes a large number of calories. Moreover, fats can add flavour to food, and you need some healthy fat in your diet to maintain good health, normal physiological functions and a healthy weight.
Some healthy oils, such as canola and olive oil, are terrific sources of monounsaturated fats, which have been shown to lower cholesterol levels, lower the risk for type 2 diabetes, and reduce high blood pressure. These oils are also rich in Vitamin E, an antioxidant that helps keep your skin beautiful and may help to protect your eyesight.
Canola, walnut, and flaxseed oils provide omega-3 fatty acids, a type of fat known to improve cholesterol levels, decrease triglycerides, and reduce arthritis pain. Omega-3s can also help reduce the frequency and severity of migraine headaches, slow memory decline, and help protect skin from sun damage.
Saturated fats are found in some vegetable oils like palm oil, and palm kernel oil is primarily listed in packages of foods. Still, they are found in many spreads and condiments, including cream cheese lard, butter, cream and shortening, poultry skin, and specific cuts of meat. While saturated fats have been thought in the past to contribute to heart disease and inflammation that can make other conditions worse, recent information has made this issue less precise regarding cuts of meat.
While saturated fats have been thought in the past to contribute to heart disease and inflammation that can make other conditions worse, recent information has made this issue less clear-cut. So, although the jury is still out on whether saturated fats are as bad as they were previously made out to be, it is essential not to go “butter crazy” and still practice moderation until more research is done.
Trans fats are far and away the worst type of fat. Although dairy products and meat contain trace amounts of naturally occurring trans fat, the large number of majority of trans fats in the US diet are man-made. These man-made trans fats are produced by adding hydrogen to vegetable oils and used in some baked goods and deep-fryer oils to broaden the shelf life. Trans fat raises your bad (LDL) cholesterol and lowers your good (HDL) cholesterol, so they increase the risk of heart disease even more than saturated fats. They also move up your risk of type 2 diabetes and increase swelling, which can worsen arthritis pain. Stick margarine typically contains trans fats and should therefore be avoided. Moreover, many brands of soft tub margarine are now trans fat-free. To identify healthy spreads, ensure that the label specifies 0g trans fat and that the ingredients panel does not have any hydrogenated oils.
Other spreads include stanol and sterol spreads. Stanols and sterols are natural substances found in small amounts in the cell membranes of certain plants. Stanols and sterols have a structure comparable to cholesterol. These compounds compete with cholesterol for access to receptors in the digestive tract, leading to lower blood cholesterol levels and effectively blocking the absorption of dietary cholesterol. Because you can’t get therapeutic doses from food alone, manufacturers have added concentrated amounts of stanols and sterols to particular heart-healthy spreads that taste and cook like margarine. These spreads should be used only by people with cholesterol problems, who should consume no more than the recommended amount, maybe two or three tablespoons per day.
The best oils and fats are canola oil, olive oil, soft tub margarine, sterol and stanol spreads, and walnut oil.