First of all, not all fats are bad! (Our diets should contain more of the good fats, instead of the bad ones)
Fats are essential to our diets; they are one of the three main food groups, along with carbohydrates and proteins. Fats function as energy sources for the body, and play a vital role in maintaining body temperature, and promoting healthy cell function. They are also important for some vitamins such as A, D, E, and K, which are fat-soluble, meaning they can only be digested and absorbed with fats.
Cholesterol is a fatty substance and is vital for the normal functioning of the body. It's mainly made by the liver, but can also be found in some foods. Cholesterol is carried in the blood by proteins called lipoproteins. The two main types of lipoprotein are:
Triglycerides are the most common type of fats in the body. They are made up of glycerol and three fatty acids chains. Triglycerides can be separated into two groups (Unsaturated and Saturated), based on the presence or absence of carbon double bonds in their molecular structure. Saturated fatty acids have no double bonds. Unsaturated fatty acids can be classified as monounsaturated (one double bond) or polyunsaturated (two or more double bonds). Unsaturated fatty acids can also be classified as Cis or Trans according to the arrangement of the hydrogen atoms around the double bond in the fatty acid chain. Cis and Trans fatty acids behave very differently in the body. Most foods actually contain a combination of fats.
Click the links below to see images and a video on Fats (including fatty acid molecular structure).
Polyunsaturated fats have more than one carbon double bond in the fatty acid chain. Oils that contain polyunsaturated fats are typically liquid at room temperature but start to turn solid when chilled, such as olive oil. These fats can help reduce bad cholesterol levels in the blood. Oils rich in polyunsaturated fats also contribute vitamin E to the diet. They also provide essential fats that your body needs but cannot produce itself, such as omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids.
Foods high in polyunsaturated fat include a number of plant-based oils, including:
Monounsaturated fats have only one carbon double bond in the fatty acid chain. They are also typically liquid at room temperature, and reduce bad cholesterol levels in the blood.
Foods high in monounsaturated fats include plant based liquid oils such as:
Saturated fats are fat molecules where the fatty acid chains have no double bonds in their structure. Eating foods that contain saturated fats could raise the level of LDL cholesterol in your blood and increase your risk of heart disease and stroke (however, research has shown that some saturated fats raise the level of HDL too). Saturated fats are typically solid at room temperature. They occur naturally in many foods; the majorities are from animal sources, including meat and dairy products.
Examples of foods with saturated fat are:
Trans Fats (or Trans unsaturated fatty acids) are so called because of the arrangement of the hydrogen atoms around the double bonds in the fatty acid chain. Trans fats raise your bad (LDL) cholesterol levels and lower your good (HDL) cholesterol levels. They also increase your risk of developing heart disease, stroke and diabetes.
Naturally occurring trans fats are found in animal products like milk and meat. Artificial Trans fats are created in an industrial process that adds hydrogen to liquid vegetable oils to make them more solid; they are commonly called “partially hydrogenated oils”. Trans fats are bad for overall health and should be avoided as much as possible. You can identify Trans fats in food by looking for “partially hydrogenated oils” in the ingredient lists. You can also determine the amount of Trans fats in a particular packaged food by looking at the Nutrition Facts panel. However, products can be listed as “0 grams of Trans fats” if they contain less than 0.5 grams of Trans fat per serving.
Trans Fats can be found in many foods including:
· French fries
· Fried chicken
· Pie crusts
· Frozen pizza
· and more
The American Heart Association recommends that adults who would benefit from lowering LDL cholesterol reduce their intake of Trans fats and limit their consumption of saturated fats to 5 to 6% of total calories. (For someone eating 2,000 calories a day that’s about 11 to 13 grams of saturated fat.)
Eat a diet that consists mostly of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts. Poultry and fish are recommended more than red meat.
AVOID PROCESSED FOODS AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE. When purchasing processed foods, avoid those made with “partially hydrogenated” oils.
Use naturally occurring, unhydrogenated vegetable oils such as canola, safflower, sunflower or olive oil most often.
Limit how frequently you eat foods that may contain trans fats, such as doughnuts, cookies, muffins, cakes and fries.
In general, try to reduce the amount of vegetable oil, cheese and butter you use when cooking.
Reduce saturated fat in meat. The amount of saturated fat in meats can vary widely, depending on how it is prepared.
Select lean cuts of meat with minimal visible fat. Also, trim all visible fat from meat before cooking.
Remove the skin from chicken or turkey before cooking.
Grill and boil meats more often, instead of pan-frying. Use a rack to drain off fat when broiling, roasting or baking.
Stews, boiled meat, and other dishes in which fat cooks into the liquid can be refrigerated. Then, the hardened fat can be removed from the top.
Limit processed meats such as sausage, nuggets, salami and hot dogs. Many processed meats are high in saturated fat. They also contain a lot of salt.
Eat more fish. Choose oily fish such as salmon, trout and herring, which are high in omega-3 fatty acids. Prepare fish baked, grilled or boiled rather than breaded and fried. (Shrimp and crawfish are lower in total fat and saturated fat than most meats and poultry.)
Eat less meat. Try meatless meals more often. Meat doesn’t have to be eaten everyday; you can replace it with legumes (peas or beans). These meals can still be delicious, nutritious and satisfying. Visit the website below for quick, and simple meatless recipes that you can try.
I hope these tips on FATS were helpful; Remember YOUR HEALTH IS INVALUABLE.
Dr. J. Lawarna Matthew
American Heart Association
Visit https://healthyforgood.heart.org/eat-smart/articles/dietary-fats for more information.