Dietary Fats: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Not all fats are bad. In fact, dietary fats are essential for nutrition and health. What really matters is the type and amount of fat you eat. Pull up a chair and let’s go through Dietary Fats 101.

Why is dietary fat necessary?
It’s a source of energy.
It facilitates vitamin absorption.
It makes food taste better.
Importantly, fats serve as a rootstock of calories and nutrients for infants/toddlers during their growth and development.

When is it bad?
When too much consumption contributes to these serious health problems:
1. Heart disease
2. Cancer development
3. Weight gain

How much total dietary fats do you need?
As recommended for an adult, your total fats should be limited to 20-35% of daily calories.

Not all fats are the same.

The “Good Fats”—healthy fats, i.e., monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.
S, olive oil_3814726474_8b1f2d9bcd_ssalmon_233231473_1c32f39b54_tGood fats lower risks of cancer and other chronic diseases. But not all “good fats” are created equal. When choosing good fats, quality is another factor to watch out for. Take an example of omega-3 essential fatty acid— the higher its content, the better.

The “good fats” can be found in the following dietary sources: olive oil, certain vegetable oils (such as canola, safflower, and corn), avocados, nuts (almonds, walnuts), fish like salmon and tuna (rich in omega-3 essential fatty acid), and flax seed.

The “Bad Fats”—saturated fats cheese_4297462_78426774bf_thumb
Saturated fats come from butter, cheese, cream (ice cream too), red meat, poultry skin, whole milk, and solid shortening, to name a few sources.

The “Ugly Fats”—trans fats (processed fats, hydrogenated fats)
Fr.Fries n cheese_422692736_b6975bd810_mTrans fats are actual opponents of your health because they raise your risks for heart disease and cancer. If you’d rather not keep company with the “bad fats”, you definitely don’t want to be found at the dinner table with the ugly ones. These ugly fats like to hang out at the local fast food joints or in processed food items. Dietary sources include fast foods, fried foods, margarine, cookies, crackers, donuts, muffins, and shortening, as well as any foods made with “partially hydrogenated oils.”

Now your fat intake regime is clear –

  • Consume good fats.
  • Reduce/replace bad fats.
  • Avoid trans fats as best you can.

Remember: The key is to replace saturated and trans fats with monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, which is more effective in preventing heart disease and cancer than reducing overall fat intake. Your body will enjoy the company.

What’s your thought on dietary fats?

Photo credits: olive oil (by Flavio@Flickr), salmon (by rick ),  cheese (by Joi), and delicious fries (by Joe Shlabotnik )

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