Can fat actually be good for your health? In some cases yes! Fat comes in many shapes and forms and it actually plays an important role in your body.
Good fat stores provide energy reserves when we are at rest or ill, contributes to cell membranes, insulates us from the cold, protects us from bruising and protects our vital organs.
The healthy fats in our diet actually lower our risk of heart disease by lowering unhealthy cholesterol, preventing irregular heart beats and blood clots and reducing inflammation.
But before you swap the “light” cookies for the Tim Tams you need to know your good fats from your bad fats because too many of the latter can promote heart disease.
So which is which? We find out with the help of Curves.
The Bad Guys - saturated and trans fats
All fats are named by their chemical structure, so the terms “saturated” and “trans” refer to the structure of the fat. In general saturated fats are found in animal products and are solid at room temperature. The Heart Association recommends limiting saturated fats to less than 10% of your total calories for the day.
The largest dietary sources of saturated fats are dairy products, meats, fried foods, and butter. Consider the following changes to cut back on saturated fat in your diet.
- Switch to skim or 1% milk
- Choose low fat cheese and yogurts
- Trade your butter for olive oil or margarine without partially hydrogenated oils
- Choose lean meats (skinless chicken or turkey breast, fish, shellfish, pork loin, beef tenderloin and sirloin)
- Trim any visible white fat before cooking meat
- Limit fried foods
Trans fats are man-made fats. They were created by taking an unsaturated fat and adding hydrogen to the structure to make it more solid at room temperature (margarine). Trans fats increase LDL (unhealthy) cholesterol and decrease HDL (healthy) cholesterol.
There are no benefits or safe level for the consumption of trans fats. Trans fats are found in fried foods and many processed foods. They masquerade as “partially hydrogenated oils.”
The Good Guys - monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats
Unsaturated fats come from plant sources and they fall into two main categories; monounsaturated and polyunsaturated.
Monounsaturated fats include olive and canola oils, avocados and nuts. The traditional Mediterranean diet is rich in fruits, vegetables, grains, fish, and olive oil. The monounsaturated fats in olive oil are protective against heart disease, as we have observed very low rates of heart disease in the Mediterranean culture.
Add olive oil to your diet by sautéing your vegetables in a small amount of olive oil, dip bread in olive oil rather than using butter, or use pesto for your favorite pasta recipe. But remember, fat is the most concentrated energy source in the diet with 9 calories per gram. Therefore, it is still important to watch your portion size.
Safflower, sunflower, corn and soybean oil are all polyunsaturated fats. Omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids also fall into this category.
Polyunsaturated fats are healthy for you, but a very large portion of fat in the average diet is coming from omega-6 fatty acids and not enough fat is coming from omega 3 fatty acids. We consume about 25 omega-6 fats to every 1 omega-3 fat. The ideal ratio would be closer to 4 omega-6 fats to every 1 omega-3 fat.
The overwhelming amount of omega-6 fats compared to omega-3 fats in our diet is linked to inflammation. Many diseases such as Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, some cancers and Alzheimer’s are associated with inflammation. Therefore, it is important that we include quality omega-3 fats in our diet.
The reason most people are deficient in omega 3 fats is because they are not consuming the best source- fish- on a regular basis. The regular consumption of omega-3s can prevent blood clots, protect against irregular heart beats, lower blood pressure and reduce inflammation associated with the diseases previously mentioned. In order to get the recommended 500 mg of omega-3 fatty acids each day, consume two 3 ounce servings of fatty fish per week.
Salmon, herring and mackerel are especially high in omega-3s. If you have known cardiovascular disease, you may benefit from 1 gram of omega-3s per day. If you choose to supplement, it is important to talk with your doctor first and choose a reputable brand that is free from contamination.
Ground flaxseed, walnuts and soybeans also provide omega-3s in the diet. However, the plant form, though beneficial, is poorly converted to DHA, the form of omega-3s in fish that has been associated with many heart healthy benefits.
Quick tips to get healthy fat in your diet:
- Eat at least two 85g servings of fatty fish per week
- Sprinkle ground flaxseed on your cereal in the morning
- Do not make butter the norm
- Switch to olive oil
- Snack sensibly on almonds, walnuts, peanuts, pecans or your favorite nut
- Add avocado to your sandwich instead of bacon
For more information from Curves female fitness centres, call 1-300 Curves or visit, www.curves.com.au
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