Are you confused about fats?
– I hope this article will clarify the matter for you.
There are good fats and bad fats and the body needs certain fats to remain healthy. Cholesterol is made by the liver as well as being found in many foods. It is a waxy substance and is required to make Vitamin D, bile to help with digestion and some hormones.
There is bad cholesterol, Low Density Lipoprotein, LDL, and good cholesterol, High Density Lipoprotein, HDL. We’ll deal with that in more detail some other time. For now, please just accept the terms ‘bad cholesterol’ and ‘good cholesterol’.
Bad cholesterol is connected to blocked arteries, heart disease, strokes, diabetes and high blood pressure.
Good fatty acids are known as monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats
Monounsaturated fats have the ability to lower bad cholesterol, LDL and increase the level of good cholesterol, HDL.
The Good Fats
Monounsaturated fats can be found in:
• olives and olive oil
• some seeds like sunflower, sesame and pumpkin.
The other good fats are Polyunsaturated fats in the form of omega-3 fatty acids.
The best source is oily fish such as:
Omega-3 fatty acids are also found in some plant foods like:
• edible seeds
• flaxseed oil
• hemp oil.
It is unlikely that taking omega-3 oils in pill form is as effective as taking it via oily fish when the body can absorb it more efficiently.
The Bad Fats
Now for the bad fats – saturated fat and trans-fats
The body can make all the saturated fat it requires so taking in more than necessary can lead to the building up of bad cholesterol, the stuff which does no good for the heart and arteries.
In food, it is mainly in red meat and dairy – hard cheese, whole milk and butter.
Health authorities recommend the eating of red meat should be reduced to a maximum of once a day or less.
Real baddies in the food world are trans-fats
Trans-fats are man-made artificial fats. Oil is made solid through a process called hydrogenation. These hardened fats are used in baked products like biscuits and cakes, in fried fast foods and margarines. They help provide a longer shelf life and are an easy way of adding flavour. Some foods like meat and dairy can contain low levels of trans-fats naturally.
Trans-fats can lead to increases in cholesterol levels, but fortunately quantities of trans-fats have been reducing in recent years due to pressure from health authorities and the public. It can be identified in the list of ingredients under the names of hydrogenated, partially hydrogenated and shortening.
The World Health Authority claims half a million people die each year because of industrially produced trans-fats. Trans-fats should be avoided altogether and saturated fats should be limited as much as possible.
So what’s the bottom line on fat intake?
• Big eaters of red meat should replace much of it with oily fish or skinless poultry
• Eat lots of fruit, beans and other vegetables
• Use low-fat or fat-free diary products (Watch out that products like yoghurt have not added extra sugar to maintain a flavour)
• Eat fewer biscuits, pastries and cakes
• Use vegetable oil rather than butter or margarine for cooking
• Avoid fried foods when eating out
• Avoid anything with the word hydrogenated on the label
One snag is that even someone living a very healthy life with good diet and plenty of exercise can still have cholesterol levels which are too high. When the body makes essential cholesterol it can make too much increasing the risk of heart and circulation problems. Genetics, age and ethnicity also come into the equation.