Ah-h-h FAT Ė Itís a loaded word! We want to eat it, but we donít want to wear it. Just the word itself, FAT, can bring on feelings of guilt, longing, anxiety, shame and confusion.
But fat isn't just associated with being "fattening" anymore. Scientists now realize there are extremely healthy good fats as well as extremely unhealthy bad fats. And certain good fats can even help you lose weight. So maybe it's time for a good fats bad fats enlightenment chat.
Types of Fatty Acids and Food Sources
If you're having difficulty digesting some of the good fats bad fats dietary details, you're not alone. There's a lot of confusion around the fat facts. And that's understandable.
After all, too much saturated and trans fat in your diet is clearly a disease disaster waiting to happen, while essential fatty acids are absolutely "essential" for optimum physical, mental and emotional health. So let's investigate the five fundamental fat factions from good fats to bad fats.
- Omega 3 with EPA and DHA, although it's polyunsaturated, is considered to be in a class by itself. This amazing fatty acid has been shown to reduce the incidence of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, joint swelling, depression and to provide many other health benefits. The richest sources of omega 3 with EPA and DHA are salmon, mackerel, herring, tuna, trout, anchovies and good quality omega 3 fish oil capsules. (Note: plant sources of omega 3 fit into the polyunsaturated category, because they do NOT have EPA and DHA.)
- Monounsaturated fat has been shown to help protect against heart disease by lowering LDL (bad cholesterol) and raising HDL (good cholesterol). The best source, extra virgin olive oil, is a major component in the healthy Mediterranean Diet. Other good sources include olives, hazelnuts, almonds, peanuts, pecans, avocados and pumpkin and sesame seeds.
- Polyunsaturated oils are the home of the essential fatty acids. They used to be ranked higher, but now are understood to be a mixed bag and hold third place behind monosaturated fats and omega 3 with EPA and DHA. The reason is clear. Most people get way too much non-nutritious polyunsaturated omega 6 fat in the form of highly refined vegetable oils. This throws off their omega 3 to omega 6 balance. It's best to use monosaturated olive oil for salads and cooking and get your essential fatty acids from whole food sources, such as 100% whole grains, soybeans, sunflower seeds and walnuts. (Note: flaxseed oil is not a natural food for humans.)
- Saturated fats should make up no more than 10% of your calorie intake. Although saturated fat adds flavor to food and can even be beneficial in very small doses, in large quantities it's been shown to clog arteries and cause other heart health problems. Saturated fats are found mainly in animal foods, such as beef, pork, lamb, butter, cream, ice cream and other full fat dairy products, as well as in tropical palm and coconut oils.
- Trans fatty acids are the real fat bad boys and should be eliminated from your diet. They've been shown to raise artery-clogging LDL (bad) cholesterol and cause breast cancer. Trans fat is created when processed vegetable oils are hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated. Food sources include cakes, cookies, pastries, candy, biscuits, crackers, cereals, deep fried foods, fatty meat from beef and sheep, soups, margarine and salad dressings.
An excellent solution is high quality fish oil capsules for low calorie omega 3 that's rich in EPA, DHA and essential fatty acids. My recommendation can be found at the omega 3 web site.
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Note: The information contained on this website is not intended to be prescriptive. Any attempt to diagnose or treat an illness should come under the direction of a physician who is familiar with nutritional therapy.