While nutritionists, doctors, and fitness gurus have long preached the benefits of low-fat diets for losing weight and keeping it off, the truth is that a proper diet still needs to incorporate some healthy fats in order to avoid hormone imbalance, poor vitamin and nutrient absorption, and increased risk of cancer. The key is to understand the different types of dietary fat in order consume only the ones that are beneficial. Below is a breakdown of the different types of fats found in foods:
The amount of trans fat in a person’s diet is linked with his or her risk of developing or dying from heart disease, a new review of studies suggests. The review showed that people who ate higher amounts of trans fat were 34 percent more likely to die from any cause over the periods studied, compared with people who ate lower amounts of trans fat.
Monounsaturated Fat: One of the two unsaturated forms of fat, monounsaturated fats are considered a “good” fat because of their link to improved cardiovascular health and cholesterol levels. This family of fats includes some natural oils- including olive oil, canola oil, sunflower oil, peanut oil, and sesame oil -as well as red meats, dairy products, avocados, nuts, and peanut butter. Monounsaturated fats are linked to increased energy, improved mood, and decreased risk of coronary heart disease.
Polyunsaturated Fat: Along with monounsaturated fats, polyunsaturated fats should be considered another good option for adding healthy fat to any diet. The most common sources of polyunsaturated fats include corn oil, walnuts, tofu, sunflower, pumpkin, and sesame seeds, soy milk, and fatty fish such as tuna, salmon, trout, and sardines. This type of fat has been linked to improved memory and brain function, lower risk of certain types of cancer, and lower risks of cardiovascular disease.
Trans Fats: Trans fats are type of hydrogenated oil that are relatively rare in nature but easily man-made. They are considered the least healthy of all dietary fats due to the fact that they have no significant health benefits, but plenty of downsides. Trans fat consumption is linked to increased rates of cardiovascular disease, increased levels of LDL cholesterol, and increased triglycerides in the bloodstream that may lead to inflammation. Studies have also indicated possible links between trans fats and diabetes, weight gain, and depression. The most common sources of trans fats are commercial baked goods, pre-packaged snack foods, stick margarine, shortening, and certain kinds of candy.
Saturated Fats: Saturated fats are a difficult group to categorize because they have some health benefits and some potential risks. Dairy products, for instance, may contain high levels of saturated fats, but provide excellent levels of calcium and protein. While studies have not proven a link between saturated fat consumption and heart disease or cancer, it is still recommended to consume this type of fat in moderation for those who suffer from bad cholesterol, high blood pressure, or are at risk for heart problems. Common sources of saturated fats include fatty meats, whole-fat milk and cheese, butter, ice cream, and coconut oil.
It is recommended that the average person gets 20 to 30 % of their daily calories from healthy sources of fat. This means incorporating monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats into the diet, replacing and cutting down on trans fats, and consuming saturated fats in moderation provided there are no limiting health factors. Following these guidelines leads to a healthier, more well-rounded diet that offers a range of long-term health benefits.