We spend so much time trying to avoid fats in our diet, but the
fact of the matter is that we need fat in order to live. It is a
nutrient that is necessary for good health. It is virtually
impossible to survive on a fat-free diet. Your brain is 60 percent
fat. Without the proper fat level, your brain cannot function
Is there such a thing as good fat? You bet there is.
We spend so much time trying to avoid fats in our diet, but the fact of the matter is that we need fat in order to live. It is a nutrient that is necessary for good health. It is virtually impossible to survive on a fat-free diet. Your brain is 60 percent fat. Without the proper fat level, your brain cannot function correctly.
And it serves as insulation for warmth. This is the reason that people with very low body fat are often cold.
There are good fats and bad fats. The good fats may help lower the risk of heart disease and cancer. Omega-3 fats are found mostly in fish and flax oil. Monounsaturated fats are found in olive oil and canola oil and should be 10 – 15 percent of your total fat intake. Both of these are liquid at room temperature.
Most of us have diets that are too high in this type. Saturated fat, which generally comes from animal sources, is among these bad fats. This type of fat is solid at room temperature. This should be less than 10 percent of your fat intake.
Omega-6 fats, also necessary in small amounts, are considered moderately bad if our consumption of them is excessive.
Hydrogenated oils, also known as trans fats, are vegetable oils that have been chemically treated to stay solid at warmer temperatures.
One group of fats cannot be classified as either good or bad. There are the polyunsaturated fats. These include both the omega-3’s and the omega-6’s, and are found in most vegetable oils. They should be 10 percent of your fat intake.
There are also essential fatty acids. These are fats that cannot be manufactured by your body and must be obtained through your diet. Linoleic acid is an example of this.
It is needed to ensure proper growth in children and to make hormones and cell membranes. Essential fatty acids are found in vegetable oils, nuts, seeds, and wheat germ.
Research has shown that Omega-3’s can help to keep our hearts healthy. They contain fatty acids known as EPA and DHA, which make the arteries more flexible and lower blood pressure as well as lowering the fats in the blood that raise our risk of heart disease (triglycerides).
Monounsaturated fats, another group in the “good” cholesterol category, like omega-3’s, have been shown to lessen the levels of “bad” cholesterol (LDL’s) in the blood.
Trans fats are one of the bad fats, which have been getting a lot of attention lately, and they are everywhere.
A recent report from the National Academy of Science’s Institute of Medicine determined that it is not healthy to consume any amount of trans fat.
The key words to look for on a food label are “partially hydrogenated” or “hydrogenated.” If these are listed in the ingredients, than trans fats are present in the food.
Saturated fats, like trans fats, also increase the levels of LDL in your bloodstream. This leads to an increased risk of heart disease.
However, you should be aware that coconut oil is an exception to the rule. The saturated fats found in plants are chemically different from those found in dairy or meat.
They contain no cholesterol. The fatty acids in coconut oil are not only safe, but they also have healthy benefits. They actually fight bacterial infections.
Karen Frost is the Wellness Director for Gold’s Gym. She is certified by the American Council on Exercise as a Personal Trainer and a Lifestyle and Weight Management Consultant.