The Skinny on Fats (Part I)
Knowledge about fats is very important in our daily lives. Imbalance between healthy and unhealthy fats can have a long standing deleterious effect on our body. High blood cholesterol (the bad one, LDL) is known to associate with heart disease which is the number one killer for Americans. About 610,000 people die of heart disease in the United States every year. That’s 1 in every 4 deaths according to CDC. Eating healthy fats can lower the level of bad cholesterol and raise the level of good cholesterol (HDL). Fats are important component of our body and they serve a number of major purposes. It’s a major source of energy. It helps you absorb some vitamins and minerals. Fat is needed to build cell membranes, the vital exterior of each cell, and the sheaths surrounding nerves. It is essential for blood clotting, muscle movement, and inflammation. Good fats include monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Bad ones include industrial-made trans fats. Saturated fats fall somewhere in the middle- the not so bad variety if you know which one to choose.
Unsaturated fats, are considered beneficial fats because:
▪ They can improve blood cholesterol levels by scavenging bad cholesterol from our system.
▪ Plays protective role for our heart and cardiovascular system.
▪ Reduces inflammation and chance of certain cancers.
▪ Helps absorb fat soluble vitamins like A, D, E & K.
There are two varieties of unsaturated fats based on double bond in their structure:
▪ Oils like Olive, peanut, and canola oil.
▪ Almonds, cashews, hazelnuts, and pecans.
▪ Pumpkin and sesame seeds.
▪ Oily fish like wild caught salmon, sardines or anchovies.
▪ Sunflower, corn, unhydrogenated soybean oils, and flaxseed oils.
▪ Chia seeds and flax seeds.
▪ Pine nuts, walnuts and brazil nuts.
▪ Canola oil – though higher in monounsaturated fat, it’s also a good source of polyunsaturated fat.
What is Omega-3?
Omega-3 fats are a type of polyunsaturated fat. Our body can’t make these, so they must come from food. People who eat lots of Omega-3 rich foods like the people of Okinawa in Japan, lives longer and healthier life. Benefits of eating foods rich in Omega-3 is endless. Typical American diet is very low in this type of healthy fat. To increase the intake follow some simple rules:
▪ An excellent way to get omega-3 fats is by eating fish 2-3 times a week.
▪ Include flax seeds or chia seeds, tree nuts like walnuts into your diet.
▪ Wild caught fishes are better choice than farm raised ones.
▪ Have at least one servings of nuts as a snack everyday.
Most people don’t eat enough healthful unsaturated fats. The American Heart Association suggests that 8-10 percent of daily calories should come from polyunsaturated fats, and there is evidence that eating more polyunsaturated fat—up to 15 percent of daily calories—in place of saturated fat can lower heart disease risk.
Saturated fats have been known to increase risk of heart attack due to their role in atherosclerosis- the process that clogged our healthy arteries. The American Heart Association recommends limiting saturated fat to no more than 7 percent of calories.
All foods containing fat have a mix of specific types of fats. Even healthy foods like chicken and nuts have small amounts of saturated fat, though much less than the amounts found in beef, cheese, and ice cream.
Some common sources of saturated fat in the diet are:
▪ Butter, lard and dairy desserts.
▪ Pizza and cheese.
▪ Meat products like sausage, bacon, beef or hamburgers.
▪ Pies, cookies, biscuits and other grain-based desserts.
To Be Continued!
Health care professionals have been advising patients for the last 3-4 decades to limit or avoid saturated fats, but the idea has begun to evolve. Several studies suggest that eating diets high in saturated fat do not raise the risk of heart disease, with one report analyzing the findings of 21 studies that followed 350,000 people for up to 23 years. The rise of obesity and related heart disease among all demographics is see among many scientist and physicians mainly due to the added sugar in everything we eat, food companies add extra sugar to make food tasty and addicting. Many scientific studies are now showing too much sugar consumption more likely to cause heart disease than saturated fat. Bottom line is moderation is the key and replacing saturated fats with carbohydrate definitely not the right path to a healthy and disease free life.
We will talk about trans fat in the Part II coming in September.