Understanding Proper Fat Consumption
By Bruce Bowen, M.D.
There is a lot of misunderstanding about fats, and to a significant degree, the obesity epidemic is directly related to this misunderstanding.
The biggest misunderstanding about fat is the misconception that all fat is unhealthy and should be avoided. Not true. There are certain types of fat that are healthy and required components of a healthy diet. Because it supports a number of your body’s functions, dietary fat is essential to your health and for suppressing your appetite.
Simplistically, there are two of fat—unhealthy and healthy. Unhealthy fat plays a role in cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and cancer. For these reasons, you should avoiding these unhealthy fats. The two main types of unhealthy fat are saturated fat and trans fat. Saturated fat comes mainly from animal sources of food. Trans fat is a partial hydrogenation of unsaturated fats. Fats that have a high percentage of saturated fat or trans fat are usually solid at room temperature. Examples are beef fat, lard, pork fat, solid shortening, stick margarine, and butter.
The two main types of healthy dietary fat are mono-unsaturated fat and poly-unsaturated fat. Both of these are unsaturated fats, and are found in a variety of foods and oils. Studies show that eating foods rich in mono-unsaturated or poly-unsaturated fats improves blood cholesterol levels, decreases your risk of heart disease, and benefits insulin levels. Fats made mostly of mono-unsaturated or poly-unsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature.
An excellent way to get this type of healthy fat is by using natural oil-based salad dressing on your salad. This type is dressing not only makes the salad taste better, but it is actually healthy for you. If you do not like to eat salad dressing on your salad, then you should consume this these healthy fats in other ways during the day. These healthy fats are good for you, and should be part of a balanced diet.
Healthy unsaturated fats actually improve cholesterol levels. Replacing unhealthy fats with healthy fats have been shown to improve cholesterol and risks for heart disease. Unsaturated fats occur in vegetable oils, most nuts, olives, avocados, and certain types of fish. Unsaturated oils include both mono-unsaturated fats and poly-unsaturated fats. Olive, canola, sunflower, and peanut oils are some of the oils high in mono-unsaturated fats. Vegetable oils such as soybean oil, corn oil, and cottonseed oil and many kinds of nuts are good sources of poly-unsaturated fats. Some fish, such as salmon, tuna, and mackerel, contain omega-3 fatty acids, known to protection against heart disease. Thus, having a salad with oil-based salad dressing–and passing on the bacon bits–is a better alternative.
Fat-free and low-fat diets are no longer recommended, contrary to what many people believe. You need about 25% to 30% of your calories from fat for a healthy balanced diet. A fat-free or low-fat diet is not healthy, especially if sugar has been added to the low fat food to replace the flavor of the fat. In summary, limit the amount of saturated fat, completely avoid trans fats, and increase the amount of unsaturated fat that you consume.