It’s important to pay attention to the type of fat you eat. There are good fats and bad fats. The bad fats are the culprits that increase the risk for certain diseases. The good fats are friends that help lower the risk for diseases. The type of fats you eat affect your cholesterol. Lowering or eliminating the bad fats and maintaining or increasing the amounts of good fats you eat is the key to improving your overall health.
The Good Fats:
Monounsaturated Fats (MUFA) help to lower your overall cholesterol, but in particular it help lower the LDL cholesterol (which is the bad cholesterol) and they help to increase the HDL cholesterol (which is the good cholesterol). Good sources of monounsaturated fats are nuts which include walnuts, almonds and peanuts. Other sources of this good fat is found in canola oil, extra virgin olive oil and avocados. Monounsaturated fats also help with weight loss, but more importantly they help in losing excess body fat. Another good fat is known as Polyunsaturated Fat. This fat lowers your total cholesterol (HDL and LDL cholesterol). Good sources of polyunsaturated fats are fish oil, salmon, mackerel, safflower oil, and sunflower oil, which contain omega-3 fatty acids. Other sources are sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, hemp seeds and ground flax seeds.
The Bad Fats:
Saturated fats are the villains that raise both your total blood cholesterol and your LDL cholesterol. Saturated fats are mainly found in animal products such as meat, dairy, eggs and seafood. Some plant foods are also high in saturated fats such as coconut oil, palm oil, and palm kernel oil. When you are shopping, make sure to read the labels and check the fat content. Trans Fats are a type of bad fat and are villains as well. These fats are produced when liquid oils are hydrogenated (a process allowing foods to withstand production better and let them have a longer shelf life). Trans fatty acids are found in many commercially fried food such as French fries, packaged snacks like microwave popcorn, vegetable shortening and in many margarines. These are fats that you want to avoid.
Tips to Help You Choose Good Fats:
1. Use liquid plant oils for cooking and baking. Extra virgin olive, canola, and other plant-based oils such as safflower oil are rich in heart-healthy unsaturated fats. Try making your own healthy salad dressing (recipe below). Instead of butter on your veggies, try to drizzle some extra virgin olive oil with a squeeze of fresh lemon for extra taste.
2. Dump the Trans fat. When you shop, get in the habit of reading the label to find foods that are trans fat-free. In restaurants, steer clear of fried foods, biscuits, and other baked goods, unless you know that the restaurant has eliminated trans fat.
3. Switch from butter to healthy oils or a soft tub margarine. Always use healthy plant based oil such as canola or extra virgin olive oil where you can. If you must choose a soft margarine, choose one that has zero grams of trans fat, and scan the ingredient list to make sure it does not contain partially-hydrogenated oils.
4. Eat at least one to two good sources of omega-3 fats each day. Try to include fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, or cod in your diet. Sprinkle almonds, walnuts, ground flax seed which provide omega-3 fatty acids onto your foods. Essential fatty acids are not only good for your heart but they are good for brain function too.
5. Go lean on meat and milk. Beef, pork, lamb, and dairy products are high in saturated fat. It is important to eat these foods but when you do, remember to choose low-fat or skim milk products, and cheese that is 15% or lower in fat. You can still enjoy the full-fat cheeses in small amounts, but use them as a treat instead of eating them regularly. When it comes to animal protein, always choose extra lean cuts and remove any visible fat before cooking.