• Anjali Gupta

Get the Facts - Good, Bad, and Ugly Fats

It is important to know what types of fat are the healthier ones and which you should limit or avoid.

Types of Fat

So knowing that you should include some amount of fat in your daily diet, it is important to know what types of fat are the healthier ones and what kinds you should limit or avoid.There are three types of fats in the foods you eat. The saturated and the trans fats are the unhealthy fats. If you eat too much of these fats they may raise your unhealthy LDL cholesterol and lower healthy HDL cholesterol. This imbalance can increase your risk of high blood pressure, narrowing of arteries (called atherosclerosis), heart attack and stroke.

Saturated Fat

It is naturally found in animal products like fatty meats, poultry skin, lard, high fat milk and milk products, hard margarines, butter and clarified butter (ghee). Some plant foods such as coconut and palm kernel oil are also high in saturated fats.

Trans Fats

They are made by hydrogenating the liquid oils to change them into a solid fat. They are used extensively in processed foods as they add texture and flavor to food and have a longer shelf life. They are found in packaged goods such as cookies, crackers, french fries, microwave popcorn, hard margarine and other snack foods and convenience foods including frozen foods.A small amount of trans fats are naturally present in dairy and meat. The natural trans fat are not of concern and does not increase your risk of heart disease especially if you choose low-fat dairy products and lean meats.

Unsaturated Fat

Unsaturated fat is a healthy fat. There are two types of unsaturated fats: monounsaturated fat and polyunsaturated fat.

Monounsaturated fat helps to improve blood cholesterol levels. They are naturally found in olives, avocados and nuts like hazelnuts, almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, pecans and olive, canola, and peanut oils and non-hydrogenated margarine. Monounsaturated fats are typically liquid at room temperature but solidify if refrigerated.

Polyunsaturated fats include omega-3 and omega-6 fat.

Omega-3 fat can help lower triglycerides (a type of blood fat that increases the risk for heart disease) and prevents clotting of blood that will reduce the risk of stroke. The sources of omega-3 are fatty fish such as salmon, trout, mackerel, sardines and herring. They are also found in canola and soybean oil, walnuts, flaxseed, pine nuts and soft margarines with no trans fat. These days omega-3 fats are also added to some brands of eggs, milk products and some juices.

Omega-6 fat helps lower LDL cholesterol. It is found in safflower, sunflower and corn oils and soft margarines with no trans fat. They are also found in nuts and seed such as almonds, pecans, Brazil nuts, sunflower seeds and sesame seeds.

How much fat do you need every day?

All fats are high in calories whether they are healthy or not. Each one gram of fat provides nine calories. Therefore, Canada’s Food Guide recommends that you eat a small amount of unsaturated fat every day.

Generally speaking about 20% - 30% of your day’s calories should come from fat. This amount includes the fat naturally present in the foods that you eat such as meats, cheese, milk etc. and the fat that you use in cooking, salad dressings or adding in your food in other ways.

For men the total daily fat intake amounts to about 60 to 105 grams and for women approximately 45 to 75 grams per day.

Tips to help you select healthy fats

Meat, Poultry and fish

  • Do not make meat centre part of every meal. Cut back on meat portions and choose whole grains, lentils, peas and beans and vegetables as main meals regularly

  • Eat fish (such as salmon or trout) at least twice a week

  • Remove the skin of chicken and turkey before cooking

Dairy products

  • Use 2% or 1% or skim milk instead of homogenized milk

  • Cut down on regular cheese and cream cheese.

  • Buy low-fat yogurt and cottage cheese. Aim for 1% milk-fat (M.F).

Oils and fats

  • Measure the amount of fat you use for cooking rather than pouring straight from the container

  • Use small amounts of unsaturated oils, such as canola or olive instead of lard or butter for cooking

  • Use a soft, non-hydrogenated margarine for spreading, cooking and baking

  • Lightly top your salads and vegetables with flaxseed oil

  • Experiment with light and reduced-fat salad dressings.

  • Replace creamy sauces with vinegars, mustards and lemon juice.

  • Snack on handful of walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts and peanuts.

  • Mix ground flax seeds in your wheat flour for baking or top your breakfast cereal with it.

Follow Eating Well with Canada’s Food Guide

The information presented is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. It is intended to provide ongoing support of your healthy lifestyle.

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Mississauga, Ontario 

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