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Breaking Down Fats

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Breaking Down Fats

Not all fats are created equally. Certain fats are essential to a healthy diet while others are not. Our bodies need a certain amount of fat for energy, hormone balance and nerve function. But too much fat in the diet causes a harmful buildup in the blood and can lead to high cholesterol. The excess fat gets stored in the fat cells and packs on the pounds.

Most people don’t realize how different types of fat impact their body. A reasonable daily target is to aim for 30 percent of your total calories from fat. For example, if you are eating 1,600 calories a day, you should get about 55 grams of fat per day. Elana Paddock, RD, LD, CDE, Registered Dietitian for Cooper Clinic, gives us the lowdown on various fats.

The Good Fats:

Monounsaturated Fats
These lower the “bad” cholesterol (LDL) and raise the “good” cholesterol (HDL). Good sources of monounsaturated fats are olive and canola oil, peanut butter, olives, avocados, nuts and seeds.

Nutrition tip: Enjoy one ounce (a small handful) of any type of nuts daily, five times a week to lower LDL cholesterol by six percent.

Polyunsaturated fats are found in vegetable oils and soft tub margarines made from corn, sunflower, safflower, soybean and cottonseed oil, reduced fat mayonnaise, reduced-fat salad dressing and pumpkin and sunflower seeds.

Nutrition tip: Trade traditionally high-fat products with reduced-fat versions like salad dressings and mayonnaise for fat and calorie savings.

Omega-3 Fats
Omega-3 fats are a type of polyunsaturated fat well known for improving heart health and reducing risk for heart disease. They act in lowering the bad (LDL) cholesterol and the other bad fat called Triglycerides. They play a big role in reducing inflammation and may not only help lower risk of heart disease, but also certain types of cancer and arthritis. They are linked to brain function, memory and cognitive performance.

Good sources of omega-3 fats are fatty fish such as tuna, salmon, mackerel, lake trout, halibut and sardines. Plant and oil sources of omega-3 are walnuts, soybeans, flaxseeds, soy nuts and canola oil.

Nutrition tip: Eat a variety of fish twice a week, totaling 8-12 ounces. Enjoy ground flaxseed in your oatmeal or yogurt. Top your cereal with a tablespoon of chopped walnuts.

The Bad Fats:

Saturated Fats
Saturated fats can raise bad (LDL) cholesterol and Triglycerides. Most saturated fats are solid at room temperature; think of a stick of solid butter or the fat in a marbled piece of meat.

The offenders are whole milk dairy products such as butter, full fat cheese, whole and 2 % milk, cream-based foods and ice cream. Animal products with saturated fats include bacon, sausage, ribs, hamburgers, fried foods and fast foods while plant foods with saturated fats are coconut, palm and palm kernel oils.

Nutrition tip: Limit meat (including beef and lamb) to 12 ounces a week- preferably divided in four to six ounce portions. Choose low-fat or nonfat dairy foods like cheeses made from 2 % milk and fat-free or 1 % milk.

The Ugly Fats:

Trans Fats
These are by far the worst types of fats because they not only raise your bad (LDL) cholesterol, but they also lower your good (HDL) cholesterol. Trans fats, also known as hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated fats, are made when liquid vegetable oils are chemically processed into solid fats.

A few of the culprits are processed foods like stick margarine, vegetable shortening, peanut butter, candy, fried foods, pastries, donuts and biscuits. The good news is food manufacturers have jumped on the bandwagon and removed trans-fats from many foods so you can find many options that are trans-fat free.

Nutrition tip: Shop for foods that say “Trans fat free” or “No trans fat,” and read the food label ingredient list to avoid foods with “hydrogenated fat” or “partially
hydrogenated fat.”

It’s important to not completely ban fat in your diet but choose them wisely and remember to watch out, fats packs in more than double the calories than other nutrients like carbohydrates and protein, so enjoy the good ones in small doses!

For more information about Cooper Clinic Nutrition Services or to make an appointment with a registered dietitian, click here or call 972.560.2655.