Know Your Fats
- “The Good”
Unsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature and are generally considered “healthy” due to their role in decreasing inflammation in the body. There are 2 types of unsaturated fats:
– Monounsaturated fats: Found abundantly in olive, peanut, and canola oils, avocados, almonds, hazelnuts, pecans, pumpkin seeds, and sesame seeds.
– Polyunsaturated fats: Found abundantly in sunflower, corn, soybean, and flaxseed oils, walnuts, and fish. Omega-3 fatty acids are polyunsaturated.
- “The Okay”
Saturated fats are generally solid at room temperature and melt when heated. Saturated fats are found in many foods but mainly in animal foods, like meat and dairy. They are found abundantly in coconut, palm, and palm kernel oil. Saturated fats have gotten a bad rap in the past due to an association with increases in heart disease. However, recent research shows that saturated fats may not be as bad as once thought and are essential to life!
- “The Bad”
Trans fats are made by heating vegetable oils in a process called hydrogenation. Partially hydrogenated oils are the main source of trans fats, however they are also naturally found in small amounts in beef and dairy. Trans fats have been incorporated into the food industry because hydrogenation 1) makes oils less likely to become rancid, thus improving shelf life, 2) converts the oil to a solid, like in margarine or shortening, and 3) can withstand repeated heating without breaking down, making them great for frying fast food. Trans fats are considered “bad” fats due to their association to many chronic diseases.
- “The Ugly”
Beware: Monoglycerides and diglycerides are byproducts of oil processing and do contain trans fats. They are used emulsifiers to keep oil and fat from separating in processed foods. They are not required to be identified as trans fats on nutrition labels, so read the ingredient list and avoid these types of fats!
The Skinny on Fats
The body gets most of its fuel from good fats and carbohydrates. If your body doesn’t get the good fat that it needs, it will overeat and crave carbs and sugar. Bad fats, mainly the trans fats, which can sit on shelves for months without going bad, are not digestible. They deliver little energy or nutrients and store as fat quickly in the body. They are also linked to a whole host of diseases, mainly due to their contribution to chronic inflammation in the body. Check out the links below for a more in-depth look at fat recommendations.
Strive to incorporate mostly unsaturated fats, along with some saturated fats into your diet while avoiding trans fats as much as possible! Don’t replace fats with carbohydrates- replace bad fats with good fats!