Tips for Choosing Healthy Fats and Fats you should Avoid
Fat comes in different flavors: The good, the bad and the ugly.
First, the good
Fat is essential as it supports a number of your body’s functions. Some vitamins, for instance, need fat to be absorbed. Our body makes its own fat by taking in excess calories. Some fats are found in foods derived from plants and animals and are known as dietary fat. Here’s the skinny on good fat: dietary fat is one of the three macronutrients, along with protein and carbohydrates, which provide energy for your body.
Now, the bad
Recently the FDA changed its stance on hydrogenated oils, which are no longer considered safe. This change will impact numerous processed food manufacturers and restaurants, many of which still use hydrogenated oils to prepare food. New York City, a leader in the fight against trans fats, successfully banned them from foods sold in restaurants back in 2006.
Finally, the ugly
Trans fats are made in the hydrogenation process, when hydrogen is added to unsaturated vegetable oils to keep the liquid oil from turning rancid. This action somewhat solidifies the liquid oil. Vegetable shortening and margarine are two examples of fats that have undergone this process. Hydrogenation increases the shelf life of processed food products, is cheaper and decreases refrigeration requirements, which is why big food manufacturers embraced it. Trans fats are a health hazard and increase the “bad” LDL cholesterol and decrease the “good” HDL cholesterol. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), you should keep your cholesterol ratio at or below 5:1. The ideal cholesterol ratio is about 3.5:1.
Foods to Avoid
For consumers looking to avoid these unhealthy saturated fats, it is essential to read product labels when shopping and to ask questions when dining out. Here’s a short list of products that you should avoid due to the unhealthy ingredients lurking within:
• Fried foods, including donuts, fries, fried chicken and fish are often cooked in hydrogenated oils containing trans fat. When dining out, ask the restaurant what kind of oil they use for frying.
• Frozen pies, microwave popcorn, pizzas, and dinners are typically loaded with trans fats.
• Margarine, ironically, now has a bad reputation due to its saturated fat content and the hydrogenated oils within that give it its solid form. Vegetable shortening is chemically altered vegetable oil. Coffee creamer can also contain trans fats.
• Consumers should check canned soup labels carefully too. Many contain trans fats and sodium levels are also a concern with these products.
• Twinkies have a shelf life of 25 days thanks to partially hydrogenated vegetable shortening. Packaged cookies and snacks usually contain partially hydrogenated oils. If you are craving sweets, it is better to tuck into high quality dark chocolate and a fresh strawberry to satiate that sweet tooth.
We Hear a lot about Cholesterol but What Is It?
Doctors are now finding that dietary fat (fatty acids and cholesterol) aggravates cardiovascular disease, some cancers and type 2 diabetes. Cholesterol isn’t a fat but a waxy, fat-like substance. Your body manufactures some cholesterol and also absorbs some dietary cholesterol, the cholesterol that is found in animal sourced foods, such as meat and eggs. Cholesterol helps build your body’s cells and produces certain hormones. But your body makes enough cholesterol to meet its needs, you don’t need any extra dietary cholesterol. Excessive cholesterol can alter LDL cholesterol level, although not as much as saturated fat does. This can increase your risk of heart disease and stroke. It is recommended that you consume less than 300 milligrams a day of cholesterol or less than 200 milligrams a day if you’re at high risk of cardiovascular diseases. Cholesterol is found in eggs and egg dishes, chicken dishes, beef dishes, and hamburgers. Other sources are seafood, dairy products, lard, and butter.
Tips to Reduce your Unhealthy Fat Intake
Here are some FDA approved tips to help you reduce the unhealthy fats in your diet:
1. Read all food labels and ingredient lists and avoid products with partially hydrogenated vegetable oil listed among the first ingredients.
2. Sauté with olive oil instead of butter.
3. Use olive oil in salad dressings and marinades. Use canola oil when baking. Use peanut oil for frying (not too often).
4. Use egg substitutes instead of whole eggs when you can.
5. Sprinkle slivered almonds or sunflower seeds on salads instead of real bacon bits.
6. Snack on a small handful of nuts rather than processed chips and crackers. Unsalted peanuts, walnuts, almonds and pistachios are good choices.
7. Try non-hydrogenated peanut butter or other non-hydrogenated nut-butter spreads. Spread them on celery, bananas or whole-grain toast.
8. Use avocado, rather than cheese or mayonnaise, to moisten your sandwich.
9. Prepare fish such as salmon a few times a week.
Choosing healthy fats and fats you should avoid:
• Avoid Saturated fat. Animal sourced food. Saturated fat raises total blood cholesterol levels and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels, which can increase your risk of cardiovascular disease. Saturated fat may also increase your risk of type 2 diabetes.
• Avoid Trans fat. This is a type of fat that occurs naturally in some foods in small quantities, especially foods from animals. But most trans fats are made during food processing through partial hydrogenation of unsaturated fats. This process creates fats that are easier to cook with and less likely to spoil than naturally occurring oils. These trans fats are called industrial or synthetic trans fats. Research studies show that synthetic trans fat can increase unhealthy LDL cholesterol and lower healthy high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol. This can increase your risk of cardiovascular disease.
• Avoid Lard: The visible solid fats. They include beef fat, pork fat, shortening, stick margarine and butter.
• Look for: Monounsaturated fat. Studies show that eating foods rich in monounsaturated fats (MUFAs) improves blood cholesterol levels, which can decrease your risk of heart disease. Research also shows that MUFAs may be beneficial for insulin levels and blood sugar control, which can be especially helpful if you have Type 2 Diabetes.
• Look for: Polyunsaturated fat. These are plant-based foods and oils. While no specific amount is recommended, the guidelines suggest eating foods rich in this healthy fat while staying within your total fat allowance. These are vegetable oils (such as safflower, corn, sunflower, soy, and cottonseed oils), nut oils (such as peanut oil), poultry, nuts and seeds. Evidence shows that eating foods rich in polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs) improves blood cholesterol levels, which can decrease your risk of heart disease. PUFAs may also help decrease the risk of Type 2 Diabetes. One type of polyunsaturated fat, omega-3 fatty acids, may be especially beneficial to your heart. Omega-3s, found in some types of fatty fish, appear to decrease the risk of coronary artery disease. They may also protect against irregular heartbeats and help lower blood pressure levels. While no specific amount is recommended, the guidelines suggest eating foods rich in this healthy fat while staying within your total fat allowance, like fatty, cold-water fish (such as salmon, mackerel and herring), ground flaxseed, flax oil, and walnuts.
http://www.fda.gov US Food and Drug Administration
http://www.cnn.com/2012/07/16/health/nyc-fat-ban-paying-off/index.html CNN Health – NYC’s Fat Ban Paying Off
http://www.mayoclinic.com/ Mayo Clinic
http://www.webmd.com/cholesterol-management/finding-the-ideal-cholesterol-ratio Web MD Cholesterol & Triglycerides Health Center
SignatureMD (signaturemd.com), with offices in Los Angeles, California and Richmond, Virginia, is one of the nation’s largest providers of initial conversion and ongoing support services to concierge medicine physicians, with an expanding network of over 160 affiliated primary care physicians and specialists across 31 states.