Fats are an important part of a healthy diet: They provide essential fatty acids, keep our skin soft, deliver fat-soluble vitamins, and are a great source of energizing fuel. For years, nutritionists and doctors have preached that a low-fat diet is the key to losing weight, managing cholesterol, and preventing health problems. But more than just the amount of fat, it’s the types of fat you eat that really matter. Apart from this it’s easy to get confused about good fats vs. bad fats. So first of all its really important to know what are good and bad fats?
Types of dietary fat: Good fats vs. bad fats
To understand good and bad fats, you need to know the names of the dietary fats and some information about them.
There are four major types of fats:
- Monounsaturated Fats
- Polyunsaturated Fats
- Saturated Fats
Monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats are known as the “good fats” because they are good for your heart, your cholesterol, and your overall health
Saturated fats and trans fats are known as the “bad fats” because they increase your risk of disease and elevate cholesterol levels of the body.
Appearance-wise, saturated fats and trans fats tend to be solid at room temperature (think of butter or traditional stick margarine), while monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats tend to be liquid (think of olive or corn oil).
The best sources of healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are vegetable oils, nuts, seeds, and fish.
Cook with olive oil. Use olive oil for stove top cooking, rather than butter, stick margarine, or lard. For baking, try canola or vegetable oil.
Eat more avocados. Try them in sandwiches or salads. Along with being loaded with heart and brain-healthy fats, they make for a filling and satisfying meal.
Reach for the nuts. You can add them to salads to give a crunchy flavour or just add them to your mid time snacking meal. Unlike most other high-fat foods, they make for a low-calorie snack.
Snack on olives. Olives are high in healthy monounsaturated fats. Use them in salads, as a pickle or in sandwiches.
Dress your own salad. Commercial salad dressings are often high in saturated fat or made with damaged Trans fat oils. Create your own healthy dressings with high-quality, cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil, flax-seed oil, or sesame oil.
General guidelines for choosing healthy fats
With so many different sources of dietary fat-some good and some bad-the choices can get confusing. But the bottom line is simple: don’t go no-fat, go good fat.
If you are concerned about your weight or heart health, rather than avoiding fat in your diet, try replacing saturated fats and trans fats with good fats. This might mean replacing some of the meat you eat with beans and legumes, or using olive oil rather than butter.
Try to eliminate trans fats from your diet. Check food labels for trans fats. Avoiding commercially-baked goods goes a long way. Also limit fast food.
Limit your intake of saturated fats by cutting back on red meat and full-fat dairy foods. Try replacing red meat with beans, nuts, poultry, and fish whenever possible, and switching from whole milk and other full-fat dairy foods to lower fat versions.
Eat omega-3 fats every day. Good sources include fish, walnuts, freshly ground flax seeds, flaxseed oil, canola oil, and soybean oil.
The fat requirement for an individual depends on one’s lifestyle, weight, age and most importantly the state of one’s health. The USDA recommends that the average individual should follow these guidelines-:
Keep total fat intake to 20-30% of calories
Limit saturated fats to less than 10% of your calories (200 calories for a 2000 calorie diet)
Limit trans fats to 1% of calories (2 grams per day for a 2000 calorie diet)
The best way to keep on top of the fats in your diet is to become a label reader. On the nutrition facts panel, you'll find all the information you need to make healthful choices. Look for foods that are low in total fat as well as in saturated and Trans fats.