It doesn’t take a rocket science — or a nutritionist — to know that when it comes to your diet, it’s best to not overeat fatty food. Certain types of fat, including cholesterol, can increase your likelihood of becoming obese or developing cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer. But not all fats are created equal.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommend adults get 20%-35% of their calories from fats. The problem is the typical American diet derives 35% to 40% of calories come from fat.
Some fats actually promote good health, and knowing the difference between good and bad fat can help you determine what to avoid, and which kinds of fat to eat in moderation.
The fact is when it comes to fueling your body, fat is as essential to your diet as protein and carbohydrates. You need some fat to dissolve certain vitamins and nutrients into your bloodstream. Fat also keeps your skin soft and is a great source of energizing fuel. But how do you know what’s good… and what’s bad?
Beware of Bad Fat
There are two main types of bad fats — saturated fat and trans fatty acids. Saturated fat is primarily animal-based, found in fatty cuts of meat, dark chicken meat, poultry skin, dairy products, eggs, lard and tropical oils (like coconut oil). The American Heart Association recommends limiting saturated fats to just 7% of your total calories.
Trans fat are the worst fats for you. You can find trans fat in:
• fried foods (French fries, fast foods and fried pastries)
• vegetable shortening
• baked goods (cookies, cakes, pies and brownies)
• anything with icing
• processed snack foods (crackers, popcorn)
• frozen pizza
• biscuits and breakfast sandwiches
Grab the Good Fats
The good news is monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat are more heart-healthy fats, and should be included in your diet in moderation. Monounsaturated fat can improve your blood cholesterol level and decrease your risk of cardiovascular disease. It is found in nuts, vegetable oils, peanut butter and avocados.
One type of polyunsaturated fat is omega-3 fatty acids, found in fatty fish (such as salmon, trout and catfish), flaxseed and walnuts. The American Heart Association recommends eating 2 servings of fatty fish each week. Omega-3s not only decrease the risk of coronary artery disease, but may also help lower blood pressure. You can also find polyunsaturated fat in foods containing omega-6 fatty acids, such as tofu, roasted soy beans, seeds (sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds) and vegetable oils.
Make Better Choices
All fats are high in calories, so try replacing unhealthy fats with healthy fats whenever possible. Read labels on food, chose low- or reduced-fat substitutes, try to go vegetarian a few days a week and limit the amount of processed foods, fried foods, sweets and desserts you eat.