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In order to know if you are making the right choices when it comes to fats you need to know what you are dealing with. Fat has more than one face so acquainting yourself with the good and the bad is vital to making the right food choices.
Fats can be broken down into four categories. These include monounsaturated fats, polyunsaturated fats, saturated fat and trans fat. The first two are good fats while the last two are bad fats. Here we take a look at all four types of fats.
Monounsaturated fats are a common part of the traditional Mediterranean diet and are associated with a lower risk of developing heart disease. These types of fats are healthy fats that are in liquid form when they are at room temperature but then turn cloudier in consistency when they are placed into the refrigerator.
The most common sources of monounsaturated fats are plant oils such as olive oil, canola oil and peanut oil. Other excellent sources of this good fat include pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, avocados, and nuts such as almonds, pecans and hazelnuts.
Polyunsaturated fats play a very significant role in good health and well-being because they are made up of a group of fatty acids known as the omega-3’s.The body is unable to manufacture omega-3’s on its own and they are found in only a small portion of foods which is why foods that do contain polyunsaturated fats are so special.
The primary sources of polyunsaturated fats include flax seeds, fish, flaxseed oils, sunflower oil, corn oil, soybean oil and walnuts. Polyunsaturated fats are liquid both when they are at room temperature as well as when they are placed in cold temperatures.
Saturated fat is not good for the body as it raises the level of low-density lipoprotein (LDL), which is sometimes simply referred to as bad cholesterol. This is unhealthy for the individual as it can increase the risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
Most saturated fats are solid when they are at room temperature but have a high melting point. The main sources of this type of unhealthy fat include red meat, tropical vegetable oils such as palm oil and coconut oil and whole milk dairy products. Any foods made with these oils are also sources of saturated fat.
There is more and more talk about trans fats because they are so bad for the body. Just as saturated fat raises bad cholesterol and can increase the risk of heart disease, so does trans fat. However trans fats go one step further. This type of fat also lowers the level of HDL or good cholesterol.
Trans fats are created by way of a process known as hydrogenation. Liquid vegetable oils are heated while in the presence of hydrogen gas. This process is done to preserve the shelf life of food items. This makes it good for the manufacturers in terms of cost but not good for the person who consumes these partially hydrogenated products.
The main sources of trans fats which you should steer clear of include vegetable shortenings, lard, and many types of margarines, cookies, crackers, fried foods, snack foods, baked goods and candies. As well there are many different kinds of processed foods that are made with partially hydrogenated vegetable oils. If you see the word “hydrogenated” anywhere on the product label then leave it on the shelf!