I am giving a presentation tomorrow about different types of fat and how to identify them, so I thought that this would be a great time to talk with all of you about fat.  When we hear the word fat we typically think negative things.  We believe that consuming fat will make us fat.  This is not the case.  According to the Dietary Guidelines of America 2010, 20-30% of our daily calories should come from fat, so for a 2000 calorie diet 400-600 calories should come from fat.

Fat contains 9 calories per gram.  This is more than double the amount of calories per gram found in carbohydrates and protein, so this is why we must choose the right fats to eat and consume fat in moderation.  Fat plays an important role in the absorption of vitamins A, D, E, and K.  Without fat in our diet, these vitamins would not be able to be properly absorbed.

So what’s up with the title “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly?”  Well it is referring to the three types of fat: The Good= Unsaturated Fat, The Bad= Saturated Fat, and The Ugly= Trans Fat.

First off we have “The Good,” or unsaturated fat.  This category includes polyunsaturated fat and monounsaturated fat.  By consuming most of your fat in the form of unsaturated fat, you decrease your risk of developing heart disease, lower your LDL cholesterol (your bad cholesterol), and raise your HDL cholesterol (your good cholesterol).  So where can you find these lovely little heart healthy fats?  You can find them in plant sources such as avocados, olives and olive oil, canola oil, almonds, sunflower seeds, peanuts, chia seeds, natural peanut butter (made of only peanuts and salt), and fish such as salmon and tuna.

Now for “The Bad,” or saturated fat.  This category of fat comes with a lot of baggage.  There is a lot of controversy on the effects of saturated fat consumption.  Most research shows a link between high saturated fat consumption and heart disease, while some recent research shows that saturated fat may not be the culprit.  Based on the majority of research, high saturated fat consumption is linked to an increased risk of developing heart disease, lowering you HDL, and raising your LDL.  Another thing about saturated fat is that it comes from animal sources that contain a lot of essential vitamins and minerals such as B vitamins, calcium, vitamin D, and essential amino acids.  So how does one identify a fat as saturated fat?  Saturated fat is typically solid at room temperature and, as mentioned earlier, comes from animal sources with the exception of some tropical fruits such as coconut and palm kernel.  Tropical fruits that contain saturated fat have been shown to raise your HDL and lower your LDL levels, which is where a lot of the controversy on saturated fat consumption comes from.  Examples of foods containing saturated fat include dairy such as yogurt, milk, butter, and cheese; eggs; and meats such as chicken, turkey, beef, and pork.

And finally we have “The Ugly,” or trans fat.  This category is a processed fat the undergoes a process called hydrogenation where hydrogen is added to an unsaturated fat molecule to create a more solid, spreadable product.  These manufactured fats increase our risk for developing heart disease, lower our HDL, raise our LDL, as well as increase our risk of developing type 2 diabetes.  So where can trans fat be found?  Trans fat is everywhere.  It is in anything that is processed or fried.  There is trans fat in hot chocolate mixes, cake mixes, frosting, margarine, shortening, corn bread mix, chips, prepackaged cookies, most peanut butters, cool whip, chocolate chips, bagged popcorn, French fries, fried chicken, the list goes on.  Manufacturers are not required to put trans fat on the nutrition label unless a product contains more than 0.5g of trans fat per serving.  You don’t typically see trans fat listed on any of these nutrition labels, so how do you find out if a product has trans fat in it?  Simple.  You read the ingredient list and look for the words hydrogenated oil or partially hydrogenated oil.  Read the ingredients list on just about any prepacked, processed food and I guarantee that you will find either of these ingredients on there.

It is important to understand what you are putting into your body and how what you are putting into your body will affect it because you only get one body in your lifetime, so you need to take care of it.

Here are a few links for more information on fats and heart health:

American Heart Association: Fats

Choosing Healthy Fats

Fat Facts

Nutrients Found in Meat, Fish, and Eggs

http://www.health.gov/dietaryguidelines/dga2010/DietaryGuidelines2010.pdf

I hope that you all learned something new about fats!  Have a great week! 🙂