If you’re trying to lose weight you’d logically assume you need to cut back on fat, right? Well, no, not necessarily. The word “fat” often has a negative connotation but we actually need it – in fact, we couldn’t survive without it.
Not all fats are created equal though. Some fats are good for you while others boast little to no nutritional value. Knowing the difference can help you determine what fats to incorporate into your diet (in moderation) and those to avoid.
Types of Fats
There are three types of dietary fats…
Unsaturated fats are commonly referred to as "good fats". There are two types of unsaturated fats: monounsaturated and polyunsaturated. Foods with high concentrations of monounsaturated fats include olive oil, peanut oil, avocado and most nuts. Plant-based monounsaturated fats have been linked to reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and overall mortality. Fish, seeds (flaxseed, sunflower, hemp and chia) and soybeans contain polyunsaturated fats. Polyunsaturated fats are high in omega fatty acids, which help with muscle function and overall heart health.
Saturated fats, after trans fats, are considered the most unhealthy type of fat. Foods like butter, palm and coconut oil, cheese and red meat have high levels of saturated fat. There are also medium levels found in poultry and eggs. Like all fats, they are necessary for the body but only in small quantities. Too much saturated fats can raise your cholesterol levels and increase the risk of heart disease and stroke. Saturated fats are also associated with weight gain – think fried foods, pizza, pies – which can therefore increase the chance of diabetes and obesity. The American Heart Association recommends limiting your intake of saturated fat to less than 6 percent of your daily calories. That translates to about 120 calories, or about 13 grams per day on a 2,000-calorie daily diet.
Trans fats are bad news for your body. Split into two categories – naturally-occurring and artificial – dietary experts recommend avoiding these. Naturally-occurring trans fats are produced in the gut of some animals and foods made from these animals (e.g. milk and meat products) may contain small quantities of these fats. Artificial trans fats are created in an industrial process that adds hydrogen to liquid vegetable oils to make them more solid. The highest levels of trans fats are found in baked goods, animal products and margarine. Trans fats are used by brands and restaurants in place of other fats because they’re easy to use, inexpensive to produce and last a long time.
Healthier fats are an important part of your diet, but it’s still crucial to moderate your consumption of them because all fats are high in calories. Popular modern diets like Atkins and Ketogenic follow a very different premise based around consuming high fat and low carb foods. While many have observed results from these, we always recommended seeking the advice of a medical professional before considering any extreme dietary changes.
All in all, when consuming fats try to seek out foods that contain monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, as opposed to unhealthy fats, to reap the benefits they have to offer.
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