What are "healthy fats?"

What are "healthy fats?"

The words “healthy” and “fats” don't seem to go together, but in the world of nutrition, they sometimes do. We all need some fat in our daily diets, because fat is an important source of energy and supports many bodily functions. But fat is also high in calories, and it can cause weight gain and raise your cholesterol. Dietary fats have also been linked to type 2 diabetes and a higher risk for cardiovascular diseases. So which kinds of fats are healthy and which are unhealthy?

All fats contain varying levels of fatty acids. Depending on the type and amount of these fatty acids, the fats in the foods we consume may be either harmful or helpful to your health. When it comes to fats that are harmful to your health, there are two potentially harmful types: those that are saturated and those that contain trans fats.

Saturated fats are most commonly found in red and/or cured meats, poultry and full-fat dairy products. These types of fats can raise unhealthy LDL cholesterol levels, which in turn can increase the risk for cardiovascular diseases and type 2 diabetes.

Trans fats mostly occur when oils are partially hydrogenated during food processing, which makes them easier to cook with and less prone to spoiling than oils derived from natural sources (i.e., olive, canola, peanut). Trans fats can increase your LDL levels, decrease your healthy HDL cholesterol levels and increase your risk for cardiovascular diseases.

There are, however, some types of unsaturated fats—monounsaturated (MUFAs) and polyunsaturated (PUFAs)—that may be beneficial to your health. MUFAs and PUFAs are found in a wide variety of foods and oils. Incorporating foods rich in both of these types of fats can improve your cholesterol levels, lower your risk for heart disease, and have been shown to help control blood sugar levels, which helps to decrease risk for type 2 diabetes.

Additionally, certain PUFAs contain omega-3 fatty acids, which are beneficial to heart health, can lower risk for coronary artery disease and can prevent high blood pressure. Good sources of omega-3s include a variety of fish (salmon, tuna and mackerel), natural oils (canola, flaxseed, soybean) and nuts and seeds (almonds, walnuts and sunflower seeds).

You can find a wide variety of foods rich in MUFAs and PUFAs at your favorite local supermarket. Always check the nutritional facts label for both the amount of total fat and saturated fat contained in any product you are considering for purchase. Limit the amount of saturated fat and cholesterol in any one product based on recommended daily nutritional allowances.

Posted: 4/29/2015 by Goshen Health
Filed under: Acids, Cholesterol, Fat, Fats, Fatty, Healthy, Nutrition, Omega-3

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