Weight Loss Wednesday: Chewing the Fat

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When you think of fat, what’s the first thing that pops into your mind? Whatever it is, I’d bet it’s nothing good. Over the years, high-fat diets have been linked to a score of chronic diseases including heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and several types of cancers. Due to this reason and the fact that most of Western society views body fat as a negative attribute, fat has developed something if a bad rap. However, not all fats are created equal. This week, we look at the differences among fats and the positive role they can have in diet, if done right and with a pinch of moderation.  Lets break it down by starting with the basics.

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Fat has many forms. When faced with excess calories over time, your body makes its own fat, which it uses as both as energy storage and insulation against the elements. In addition to these basic roles, fat is supports a number of basic processes in the body and is the backbone for many chemicals that your body needs to function on a daily basis. This being said, fat is high in calories, and eating too much of it (as with any caloric excess) will cause weight gain. The key is to focus on avoiding bad fats and limiting the amount of good fats that you eat to a reasonable level.

There are two basic type of FATS TO AVOID:

Trans fat: these are things like margarine, vegetable “spread” or anything that says “hydrogenated” on the ingredients list. Avoid, avoid, avoid. These fats can increase unhealthy cholesterol and increase your risk for cardiovascular disease.

Saturated fats: These fats are solid at room temperature and include butter and lard. They increase total cholesterol and can cause cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

Now, we move on to the HEALTHIER TYPES OF FATS:

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Monounsaturated fatty acids/polyunsaturated fatty acids:  these fats are found in a variety of plant based foods such as avocados and nuts. They improve blood cholesterol levels and may play a role in blood sugar control, beneficial in cases of diabetes.

Omega-3-fatty acids- these fats are found in deep sea fatty fish like salmon, mackerel and trout. These fats serve as anti-oxidants, protecting your cells from damage done to them by toxic environmental chemicals. As well they may also  play a role in decreasing the risk of coronary artery disease.

Take Home Message:

When it comes to fats the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans have the following to say:

·       Avoid trans fat.

·       Limit saturated fat to less than 10 percent of calories a day.

·       Replace saturated fat with healthier monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.

My advice? Take the above recommendations into account and remember to limit your total fat intake. Just because something can be healthy in small doses doesn’t mean that it is in large ones. Happy eating.