Fat has taken a bad rap over the years but, it is very essential to your health and well being. “Eat a low-fat, low-cholesterol diet” has been the mantra for healthy eating for decades now. Touted as a way to lose weight and prevent heart disease and other chronic conditions, millions of people have followed this advice. Seeing a tremendous marketing opportunity, food companies re-engineered thousands of foods to be lower in fat or fat free. The low-fat approach to eating may have made a difference for the occasional individual, but as a nation it has not helped us control our weight or become healthier. In the 1960s, fats and oils supplied Americans with about 45 percent of their calories and about 13 percent of the population was obese and less than 1 percent had type 2 diabetes. Today Americans take in less fat, getting about 33 percent of calories from fats and oils, yet 34 percent of the population is obese and 8 percent has diabetes (mostly type 2).
body packages fat and cholesterol into tiny protein-covered particles
called lipoprotein in order to get them into your blood stream. Some of
these lipoproteins are big and fluffy, and others are small and dense.
However, the most important ones to remember for your health and
well-being are low-density lipoproteins, high-density lipoproteins, and
triglycerides as explained below.
lipoproteins (LDL) carry cholesterol form your liver to the rest of your
body. Your cells latch onto these particles and extract fat and
cholesterol from them. When there is too much LDL cholesterol in your
blood, these particles can form deposits in the walls of your coronary
arties and other arties throughout your body. These deposits, called
plaque can cause your arties to narrow and limit blood flow resulting in
a heart attack or stroke. Thus LDL cholesterol is called your bad
High-density lipoprotein (HDL) scavenge
cholesterol from your bloodstream, from your LDL, and from your artery
walls and ferry it back to your liver for disposal. Thus HDL
cholesterol is referred to as your good cholesterol.
make up most of the fat that you eat and that travels through your
bloodstream. Triglycerides are your body’s main vehicle for
transporting fats to your cells and thus, are very important for your
good health. However, an excess of triglycerides can be unhealthy.
type of fat your diet determines to a large extent the amount of total
and LDL cholesterol in your bloodstream. Cholesterol in food matters
too, but not nearly as much. You can basically break the fats in your
diet into three categories; good, bad, and very bad.
fats are called good fats because they can improve blood cholesterol
levels, ease inflammation, stabilize heart rhythms, and play a number of
other beneficial roles. Unsaturated fats are predominantly found in
foods from plants, such as vegetable oils, nuts, and seeds. They are
liquid at room temperature.
Further, there are two
types of unsaturated fats. First monounsaturated fats which are found
in high concentrations in canola, peanut, and olive oils; avocados; nuts
such as almonds, hazelnuts, and pecans; and seeds such as pumpkin and
sesame seeds. Secondly, polyunsaturated fats which are found in high
concentrations in sunflower, corn, soybean, and flaxseed oils, and also
in foods such as walnuts, flax seeds and fish.
has shown that replacing carbohydrates in your diet with good fats
reduces harmful levels of LDL and increases protective HDL in your
bloodstream. A randomized trail known as the Optimal Macronutrient
Intake Trial for Heart Health showed that replacing a carbohydrate-rich
diet with one rich in unsaturated fat, predominantly monounsaturated
fats lowers blood pressure, improves lipid levels, and reduces the
estimated cardiovascular risk.
fats are called bad fats because they increase your total cholesterol
level by elevating your harmful LDL. Your body can make all the
saturated fat that it needs, so you don’t need to get any in your diet.
In the US and other developed countries saturated fats come mainly from
meat, seafood, poultry with skin, and whole-milk dairy products. A few
plant sources are also high in saturated fats, such as coconuts and
coconut oil, palm oil, and palm kernel oil.
rule it’s a good idea to keep your intake of saturated fats as low as
possible. Saturated fats are a part of many foods, including vegetable
oils that are mainly unsaturated fats, so you can’t totally eliminate
them from your diet. Red meat and dairy fats are the main sources of
saturated fats in most people’s diets, so minimizing them in your diet
is the primary way to reduce your intake of saturated fat.
Very Bad Fats
fatty acids, more commonly known as trans fats are made by heating
liquid vegetable oils in the presence of hydrogen gas, a process called
hydrogenation. Partially hydrogenating vegetable oils make them more
stable and less likely to spoil. It also converts the oil into a solid
which makes transportation easier. Partially hydrogenated oils can also
withstand repeated heating without breaking down, which makes them
ideal for frying fast foods. This is why partially hydrogenated oils
have been a mainstay of restaurants and the food industry.
fats are worse for cholesterol levels than saturated fats because they
raise bad LDL and lower good HDL. They also increase inflammation, an
over-activity of the immune system that has been implicated in heart
disease, stroke, diabetes, and other chronic conditions. Even small
amounts of trans fats in diet can have harmful health effects. For
every extra 2 percent of calories from trans fat daily (the amount in a
medium order of fast food French fries) the risk of coronary heart
disease increases by 23 percent. It is estimated that eliminating trans
fats from the US food supply would prevent between 6 and 19 percent of
heart attacks and related deaths (more than 200,000) each year.
Dr. Donal Layman, professor of nutrition at the University of Illinois
has developed the most balanced dietary plan that I have seen
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