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Let's Get the FATS Straight

Let's Get the FATS Straight

We all know that trans fat and saturated fat are major things to avoid, but what's the difference between the two?

And what about unsaturated fats, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated. Are they bad too? What foods contain them?

Are you confused about all these fats too? Let's get these fats straight once and for all.

Trans Fatty Acids: Commonly called trans fat, these are "The chemically-altered guys." Most trans fat is a side effect of partial hydrogenation of plant oils (companies use them to increase the shelf life of their products). Trans fat are neither required nor beneficial to our bodies. Eating trans fat can increase your risk of heart disease.

Some trans fats can occur naturally (in small quantities) in meat and dairy products that come from ruminants (hooved animals that digest their food in 2 steps such as cows, goats, and buffalo). These aren't considered as bad for you as the chemically-altered kind.

Look out for:

  • Processed foods like crackers, snacks, breads, chips, and baked goods
  • margarine
  • shortening like Crisco
  • candy like caramels and chocolates (Ghirardelli)
  • dips
  • Some fast foods such as French fries and biscuits
  • frozen foods

Saturated fat: "The bad guys." These are often solid at room temperature, like butter. Saturated fats are not essential to your health. Most come from animals and are found in meat, eggs, and cheese. Some are found in vegetable oils such as palm, palm kernel and coconut oils. Saturated fats are harder to digest and full of cholesterol, which clogs your arteries.

Foods that contain Saturated fat are:

  • lard
  • butter
  • high fat dairy products such as cream, whole milk, cheese, and sour cream
  • high-fat meats like ground beef, bologna, hot dogs, sausage, bacon, and spareribs
  • coconut oil
  • skin from chicken and turkey
  • chocolate

Unsaturated fat: "The good guys." These are often liquid at room temperature, like olive and sunflower oil, and are essential to our overall health. They are thought to reduce our risk of heart disease, enhance memory, and other mental functions. They are derived from vegetables and plants.

Monounsaturated fats are one type of unsaturated fat. These are liquid at room temperature, but solidify at cold temps. Some studies have shown that these kinds of fats can actually lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and maintain HDL (good) cholesterol.

Foods that contain Monounsaturated fat are:

Polyunsaturated Fats are also liquid at room temperature. This type of fat has also been shown to reduce levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol, but too much can also lower your HDL (good) cholesterol.

Foods that contain Polyunsaturated fat are:

  • walnuts
  • corn oil
  • some tubs of margarine like Earth Balance
  • sunflower oil
  • pumpkin and sunflower seeds
  • some salad dressings

Fit's Tip: Even if you are only eating the good fats, remember they are still fattening (duh!?!), and you should aim to have 30% or less of your diet come from fat.


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