Friendly Fats: Here's What to Eat More Of

Posted in: Diet & Nutrition

Susan Ohtake, CPT

When you hear the word fat you usually think the fat on your body right? It’s assumed that all the fat on your body is bad, but that’s not true. There are good and bad fats and we actually need fat to survive.

Fat is good for cell growth, protecting your organs, keeping you warm, and hormone regulation. Without fats, we would just be cold and REALLY moody all the time.

The "Bad Guys"

Saturated Fats: This type of fat can be found in red meats, poultry with skin, butter, cheese, and other dairy products. According to the American Heart Association you should only get about 13g of saturated fats a day.

Some doctors say these fats can increase your cholesterol levels...and that’s why eating a lot of red meat isn’t necessarily good for you. But there's recently been some debate about that (including docs & researchers who say that dietary fat does not contribute to cholesterol levels...they believe it's all genetic). I think it's a little early to be conclusive about this research.

Trans Fat: This is the really bad stuff that tastes super good, but you should try to stay away from. Trans fat is found in oil used for deep frying foods. Things like chicken nuggets, french fries, potato chips, and frozen foods like pizza tend to be high in trans fat. You can avoid trans fat by cutting back on fried foods, eating more vegetables, and looking out for words like “hydrogenated oil” on the back on nutritional labels.

The "Good Guys"

Monounsaturated: A good example of a monounsaturated fat is olive oil. If you haven’t noticed, a lot of people have switched from vegetable to olive oil in the last few years because it’s healthier for you. Vegetable oil leans more toward the trans fat side, so we try to avoid that. Peanut butter and avocados are other foods that have become extremely popular the last few years because of the amount of good fat they give you.

Polyunsaturated: The other good kind of fat can be hard to come by, but is also found in oils, plant based oils to be exact. Soybean, Corn, and Sunflower oil all have polyunsaturated fats. They can also be found in some nuts.

Both of these fats can help increase your good cholesterol and decrease bad cholesterol levels. It’s been said that the Mediterranean diet is good for you because it includes a lot of these healthy fats, mostly coming from fish and oils.

About Tricky Food Packages

The key lesson from this is always read the nutrition label on the back of packaging! But you have to be careful. Don’t look at the front of the box and buy it just because it says “Fat-Free.” You don’t need it to be completely free of fats! You just want little to no trans and saturated fats. However, also watch to make sure foods labeled “zero trans fat” don’t also include a lot of sugar.

Sometimes companies will take out all the fat and replace it with sugar so it still tastes good, but too much sugar definitely isn’t good for you. To be safe, moderation of everything is key. Don’t eat the whole cake or the whole bag of chips, eat a handful and put them down if you really can’t stay away from them. Bring your reading glasses to the grocery store next trip because you need to start reading those labels!

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