The Good, the bad and the ugly on Fat
Why Non-Fat Isn’t Always the Answer
You’ve shied away from eating it and worked on the treadmill to burn it off. But fat, can actually be your friend because your body needs it in order to function. Fats help you absorb vitamins A, D, and E, and they are vital for your nervous system. Not only that, but did you know women who ate a Mediterranean diet filled with healthy monounsaturated fat lowered their risk of heart disease by 29 percent, according to a new study in Circulation.
Of your total daily calories, 25 to 30 percent should come from fat. The keys: Pick good-for-you fats, and limit the bad kinds. Don’t know a saturated from a poly? Here’s the skinny on which fats to eat and which to avoid.
The Good: Unsaturated Fat
These fats, known as MUFAs, raise good HDL cholesterol, lower bad LDL cholesterol, and protect against the buildup of plaque in your arteries. They also help prevent belly fat, according to research.
You’ll find them: In olive oil and olives, canola oil, almonds, cashews, peanuts, peanut butter, sesame seeds, and avocados.
How much you need: Most of the fat you eat should be unsaturated, like MUFAs. Just two to three tablespoons of olive oil a day can raise HDL levels and help protect against heart disease.
In addition to lowering your LDL, these fats contain essential omega-3 fatty acids — which boost brain function, and may help strengthen your immune system while improving your mood — and omega-6 fatty acids, which in small amounts can keep skin and eyes healthy.
You’ll find them: Omega-3s are primarily in fish like salmon, mackerel, and herring, as well as canola oil, flaxseed, and walnuts. Omega-6s are in corn and safflower oil, corn-fed chicken and beef, and farmed fish.
How much you need: Most of the polys you eat should be omega-3s. Too much omega-6 can lead to inflammation, which is linked to heart disease. Trade vegetable oil for olive and canola oils, and eat grass-fed beef and wild-caught fish.
The Bad: Saturated Fats
These fats, will raise cholesterol levels and increase your risk of heart disease.
You’ll find them: In meat and poultry, in dairy products like cream, butter, and 2 percent milk, and in some plant foods like palm oil.
How much you need: Limit saturated fat to less than 10 percent of your total daily calories. One easy way to cut back: Remove any hard fat you can see, such as the skin on chicken.
The Ugly: Trans Fats
Made from unsaturated fat that’s been chemically altered to prolong the shelf life of packaged foods, Trans fats raise bad LDL and lower good HDL, increasing inflammation throughout the body. You’ll find them: In shortening, margarine, doughnuts, french fries, and processed foods such as crackers, cookies, chips, and cakes.
How much you need: Zero. But know this: The FDA allows food manufacturers to claim that a product contains “zero trans fats” if one serving of it has 0.5 grams of Trans fats or less. That means if you eat more than one serving, you could be getting a gram or more. Just remember before buying foods, check all the ingredient labels for “partially hydrogenated vegetable oil” — Trans fats’ sneaky pseudonym.
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