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Today in Health & Wellness
HEALTHY EATING

Choosing Healthy Fats

"Good fats protect your heart and support health in general. "
By: Ma. Jocelyn A. Niere-Quidlat, MD, FPPSChoosing Healthy Fats

Several doctors, nutritionists, personal trainers in gyms and other authorities in weight-loss have advised that the key to losing weight is eating a diet that is low in fat.  But should that include all types of fats? That is not so. 

As a matter of fact, good fats are needed to the maintenance of health – both emotionally and physically.  Good fats protect your heart and support health in general. On the other hand, bad fats increase the blood level of cholesterol and increase the risk of certain diseases.

The dietary fats are obtained from food found in plants and animals. There are four major types of fats as follows:

  1. Monounsaturated fats
  2. Polyunsaturated fats (including omega 3s)
  3. Trans fats
  4. Saturated fats

The fats considered as “good” are the unsaturated fats. The intake of both the monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats can have the following effects:

  • Improve blood cholesterol level
  • Lower the risk of heart disease
  • Improves insulin levels
  • Controls blood sugar

Examples of monounsaturated fat – avocados, olives, nuts (almonds, peanuts, macadamia nuts, hazelnuts, pecans, cashews)

Examples of polyunsaturated fat – walnuts, sunflower sesame and pumpkin seeds; fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, mackerel, herring, trout, and sardines; non-GMO sources of soy milk and tofu

Unsaturated oil for cooking and food consumption

The traditional cold-pressed oils such as the extra virgin olive oil, peanut oil, and sesame oil that are rich in monounsaturated fats which have been used for the longest time.  The more recently developed processed oils include soy bean oil, sunflower oil, corn oil, canola oil, cottonseed oil, and safflower oil. High heat and toxic solvents are used to extract the oil from the seeds.

Hence some nutritionists express their views that these manufactured oils should not be classified as good fats because the industrial processing can damage the oil. This will transform the fatty acids into dangerous trans-fat.

Good fat can become bad fat when damaged by heat, light or oxygen exposure. Do not use oils, nuts or seeds if they begin to smell or taste rank or bitter. Cooking at high heat can also damage the fat.

What’s with omega- 3 fatty acids?

This is a type of polyunsaturated fat that can:

  • Prevent and reduce the symptoms of depression, ADHD and bipolar disorder
  • Protect against memory loss and dementia
  • Reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke and cancer
  • Ease arthritis, joint pain and inflammatory skin conditions
  • Support a healthy pregnancy
  • Helps battle fatigue, sharpens memory and balances mood

What are the types of omega-3 fatty acids?

  • EPA (eicosapentanoic acid) and DHA (docohexanoic acid) found in cold-water fatty fish such as salmon, herring, mackerel, anchovies, sardines, lake trout and tuna. Oysters are also a good source.
  • ALA ( alpha-linoleic acid) comes from plants like algae, walnuts, flaxseed, Brussel sprouts, kale, spinach and parsley

How much omega-3 does a person need?

Two 6-oz servings of fatty fish a week may suffice plus regular servings of ALA-rich foods like flaxseed or nuts provides an ample amount. Fish oil supplements may also be used which contain 700-1000 mg of EPA and 200-500 mg of DHA a day. Several algae supplements may have a lower recommended dose than the fish oil supplements because of the higher concentration of omega 3-s.

Why should we eliminate trans-fat from our diet?

The ill effects of trans-fats are as follows:

  • Raises the LDL (low density lipoprotein)  or bad cholesterol
  • Lowers HDL (high density lipoprotein) or good cholesterol
  • Increases the risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes

Trans fats are high in commercially-baked goods (cookies, crackers, cakes, muffins, pie crusts, pizza dough, breads), packaged snack foods (crackers, microwave popcorn, chips, candy), solid fats (stick margarine, vegetable shortening), fried foods (French fries, fried chicken, chicken nuggets, breaded fish, hard taco shells), premixed products (cake mix, pancake mix, chocolate milk), and anything with partially hydrogenated oil listed in the ingredients.

Here are guidelines for choosing healthy fats:

  • Try to eliminate trans-fat from your diet. Check food labels for trans-fats or any kind of “partially hydrogenated” oil. Avoid commercially baked goods and fast foods.
  • Reduce or totally avoid fried food.
  • Eat omega-3 fats every day.
  • Choose the oils you use carefully. Cold-pressed organic oils retain nutrients as compared to industrially manufactured oils which can become toxic when heated. 
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