THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF FAT
There was a time not so long ago when all fats were considered to be bad, and people would restrict them from their diets completely in their quest to get lean. Fortunately, things have improved and research continues to prove how important it is to eat different types of fat every day.
Fats are one of the three macronutrients, the other 2 being carbohydrates and protein. Fats contain 9 calories per gram while carbs and protein are 4 calories per gram.
There are 3 different types of fat you should be aware of, these are Saturated, Unsaturated, and Trans.
Because fat contains more calories per gram than carbohydrates and protein you should control the amount of it in your diet. A standard low-fat diet contains about 30% of calories from fat, or less.
Saturated fats are solid at room temperature and are found in animal foods such as butter, egg yolks, whole milk, cheese, and meats.
Saturated fats are also found in tropical oils, such as coconut oil, palm oil, and cocoa butter.
Foods made with butter or margarine will also contain high levels of saturated fats (cakes, cookies, etc.).
Unsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature and can be split into two categories; Polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) and Monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs).
Polyunsaturated fats include Omega 3 and Omega 6 and can be found in plant and animal foods, such as salmon, vegetable oils, and some nuts and seeds.
Monounsaturated fats are also found in plant foods, such as nuts, avocados, and vegetable oils.
Trans fats are fats that have been changed by a process called hydrogenation (adding hydrogen to liquid vegetable oils to make them more solid). This process increases the shelf life of foods while giving them a desirable taste and texture.
To spot trans fats look on the packaging of food for things like hydrogenated vegetable oil, partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, hardened vegetable oil, partially-hardened vegetable oil, and margarine.
Foods high in trans fats include cookies, cakes, pizzas, fast-food, snack foods, and other baked goods.
Fat is essential to your diet, but unfortunately, not all fats are created equal. Some fats are better for you than others, and understanding the different types of fat can help you choose which to eat, which to avoid and which to eat in moderation.
Foods and oils contain a mixture of fatty acids, but the predominant type of fat they contain will determine if they are good or bad. Foods high in artificial trans fats are the ones to be avoided. These fats are notoriously unhealthy and can be linked to long-term inflammation, insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease.
Saturated fats, on the other hand, should be eaten sparingly. Most saturated fats are animal fats and can be found in high-fat meats and dairy products. Instead, you should opt for foods high in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat. Foods containing these healthier fats tend to be liquid at room temperature and have been shown to improve insulin sensitivity, decrease inflammation, and reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer.
Polyunsaturated fats are known as essential because the body cannot make them, and can only get them from food. A certain type of polyunsaturated fat, called omega 3, has been shown to be particularly beneficial. This fat can be found in foods such as salmon, herring, sardines, and trout.
You can also find omega 3 in plant foods like flaxseeds, walnuts, and chia seeds, however, plant foods typically only contain omega 3 in the form of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), and the human body’s ability to convert ALA is limited and only a small percentage is converted to EPA, while even less to DHA.
In addition to omega 3, you can find omega 6 fatty acids in polyunsaturated food sources such as tofu, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, and certain vegetable oils; palm oil, rapeseed oil, evening primrose oil, and sunflower oil.
Monounsaturated fats have also been shown to offer many health benefits including lowered blood pressure and reduced risk of heart disease and cancer. These healthy fats can be found in olive oil, avocados, and certain nuts, with the highest content found in macadamia, hazelnut, almond, and pecan.
Fats are an essential part of our diets, and its important to include different types of fat in your diet, even if your goal is to lose weight.
And if you’re striving for good health then you should be trying to avoid trans fats while incorporating more foods that contain monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. It’s a strategy that will help your heart and improve your performance and quality of life.