Types of Fat :
- Saturated fatty acid: Increases risk for heart disease by raising low density lipoprotein ( LDL) in the blood. Examples: fatty meat, red meat, processed foods, full-cream milk, cheese, butter, cream and cold cuts.
- Trans fatty acid: Increases risk for liver fat infiltration and heart disease by raising LDL and free fatty acids; lowers high density lipoprotein ( HDL, “ the good cholesterol”). Examples: baked products, pies, pastries, cookies.
- Mounsaturated fatty acid: decreases risk for heart disease by raising HDL and lowering LDL; reduces triglycerides when used to replace saturated fat. Examples: canola & olive oils, peanuts, avocados
- Omega-3 fatty acid: decreases risk for heart disease by lowering LDL, triglycerides, and diastolic blood pressure; fights inflammation and protects the brain and nervous system. Example: canola oil, flaxseed oil, fish: salmon, tuna, trout, sardines, herring, mackerel.
- Sterols and Stanols
- Cholesterol: a waxy substance found in the human body to produce hormones, vitamin D and bile. Most of the body cholesterol is made in the liver, but some may come from diet , especially animal fats and oils. Cholesterol is carried from the liver to the rest of your body in LDL and back to the liver in HDL. A high level of cholesterol in the blood is high risk of heart disease.
- A healthy diet is one that limits amount and type of fat.
Body needs 25-35% of total calories from fat because it has important functions besides giving essential fatty acids. Not all fats are “bad”. Fat from nuts, seeds, olive oil, avocado fruit contain “ good” type of fat called monounsaturated fat.
- Products that are labeled “ low fat” could be low calorie options.
Some food manufacturers replace the fat with other ingredients that may have just as many calories. Remember to count calories .
- Olive oil has fewer calories than other types of oils.
All fats, good or bad, contain 9 calories/gram, about 135 calories per tablespoon. On the other hand, carbohydrates and protein have only 4 calories/gram, about 30 calories in a tablespoon of dried fruits.
- Foods labeled : “trans fat free” could be healthy options.
Food manufacturers may replace trans fat or hydrogenated fat with saturated fat, which can raise LDL cholesterol. US FDA allows 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving even if the food is labeled “ zero.” Hence, portion control should be the healthy option. Use liquid vegetable oils, such ascanola or olive oil, over solid fats such as butter, margarine or lard.
- Plant sterols reduce cholesterol in the blood by dissolving it in the intestines.
Plant sterols work by reducing the absorption of cholesterol from the intestines, which in turn reduces the level of LDL cholesterol in the body. Cholesterol that is not absorbed is eliminated from the body.
- To lower blood cholesterol, eliminate it from your diet entirely.
Cholesterol in food varies in its effect on blood cholesterol level from person to person depending on the amount and type of fat, i.e. saturated fat and fiber eaten in the same meal. To be overly concerned about dietary cholesterol is being de-emphasized in favor of the approach of limiting total fat, saturated fat, and trans fat in particular. It is perfectly safe to have about 300 mg cholesterol daily considering it has important functions in the body.
- Shellfish including shrimp has a relatively high amount of cholesterol and should be avoided.
While shrimp is higher in cholesterol than some other animal products, it is still very lean and low in saturated fat. Have a moderate amount of shrimp and other shellfish occasionally, just as long as they are not fried.
Frequently Asked Questions
Will eating “good” fats instead of “bad” fats help me lose weight?
No, all fats are equally high in calories relative to carbohydrate and protein. Regardless of the source , eating more calories than needed will result in weight gain. Replacing the “bad” fats (saturated and trans fats) with the “better” fats (monounsaturated and omega-3 fats) reduces risk of heart disease. To avoid weight gain , control the total amount of calories .
Are all foods labeled “trans fat-free” good for me?
Not necessarily. Foods labeled “trans fat-free” may still be high in saturated fats , high in total fat, or low in nutrients. Examples are: milkshakes, chocolates, fatty and salty dishes, bacon . Note that a “trans fat-free” label is allowed 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving. A large serving could become a significant source of trans fat .
What are the differences among butter, lard, margarine and other vegetable fats?
Butter contains about 20% less fat and calories per gram than lard or vegetable fat because it contains some water but twice as much cholesterol ( 60 mg/ounce) as lard ( 27 mg/ounce). Lard and butter contain more monounsaturated fat than palm kernel or coconut oil which have more saturated fat. However, the palm and coconut have natural phytosterols which can help reduce blood cholesterol.
Margarine, on the other hand, is made from vegetable oils, so it contains no cholesterol. However, it contains trans fat ; the more solid the margarine, the more trans fat it has. Stick margarines have more trans fat than tub margarine.
When selecting a spread, choose products with the least amount of saturated and trans fats. Consider trans-free tub margarine, light or whipped butter or blend of butter and olive or canola oil. These have less fat and calories than regular butter.
Eggs are high in cholesterol. Should they be excluded in a healthy diet?
Experts no longer consider it necessary for healthy people to limit their egg intake to a specified number per week. A person’s entire diet, not any single component, is what is crucial for good nutrition. There are bad diets, but there is no such thing as a bad food ( unless the food is spoiled or contaminated). Consuming an average of one egg per day is acceptable for many people. Although the American Heart Association still recommends intake of cholesterol to no more than 300 mg/day, an egg yolk containing 215 mg cholesterol fits within this limitation only if the person’s overall diet is low in cholesterol. Egg is an excellent source of high quality protein and vitamins A, B6, B12, folate, minerals iron, phosphorus, and zinc. It contains choline, carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin . It is relatively low in calories ( 75 calories) and saturated fat ( 1.5 g).
Is coconut oil good for health ?
There are scientists who believe that tropical oils are metabolized differently in the body than animal fats. The medium-chain fatty acids in coconut oil are not stored like other fats but burned rapidly as an energy source. In a study in Brazil, coconut oil was found not to cause high LDL cholesterol. No evidence exists that coconut oil is bad for health. Neither is it a miracle food. Marketers make it seem the more one takes coconut, the healthier one becomes. Excess consumption means excess calories and substitution for other good fats like fish and olive oils. Experts recommend the intake of a variety of oils and not to consume large amounts of one type of oil.
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