Good fat vs. bad fat: What you need, and what you don’t

By: Dayna Copeland Schaef

Anyone who has ever altered their diet to lose weight, lower their cholesterol or just to improve their overall health understands that cutting out fat is a huge factor in their success. And, there is no shortage of low fat diet plans available on the bookshelves these days. Any interested party can easily subscribe to the plan that best fits their lifestyle, whether it be one that cuts out carbohydrates or one that dictates that everything you eat be low-fat and sugar free. With the immense amount of information available to those looking to eat better, knowing the truth about the fat that is found in the foods they eat (or don’t eat, for that matter) can make all the difference.

Times have changed since the fifties and sixties, where housewives used to cook with butter and lard, now a modern cook would be chastised for including these saturated fats in their list of ingredients. But there is a middle ground, where the consumption of fat is concerned. Knowing the difference between good fat and bad fat isn’t difficult and it can prove to impact your overall health, indubitably.

Cutting the fat completely from your diet can actually be quite dangerous. Humans actually need fat to survive. The good fats, like Omega-3 fatty acids, a form of unsaturated fat, actually aid in the delivery and absorption of essential nutrients and vitamins to each of the cells in our bodies. Without these, our body can become malnourished, deteriorating our immune systems and depleting our energy. Fatty fish, like salmon and trout, are excellent sources for Omega-3’s, as well as Fish Oil Supplements, which can be found at any health food or drug store.

Other forms of “good fats” that are essential to a healthy body come in the form of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, which can be found in a variety of foods, including: olives, nuts, seeds and avocados.

Those fats that should be avoided, and have been deemed “bad fats’ are saturated and trans fats, which can lead to obesity, heart disease and high cholesterol, and even, to some forms of cancer. Foods that are highly processed, and contain hydrogenated oils are called trans fats. These types of fats can be slipped in to foods that claim to be “healthier” like margarines and vegetable oils, but they are most commonly found in fried foods, shortening, butter and other dairy products. Saturated fats, the other form of “bad fat” are the ones that are most commonly found in animal products, like meat, poultry, butter, lard, and also, in most commercially produced bakery goods.

Eating a well balanced diet is one of the most important steps that a person can take to improve or maintain their health. High in fruits, vegetables and minimally processed carbohydrates, including the right kind of fats in your diet is just as important as any other factor.

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