Know Your Fats: Trans Fat vs. Saturated Fat
While many of us know that as a general dieting guideline, avoiding high fat foods is the way to go. However, this isn’t entirely accurate and it definitely misses the target when it comes to understanding nutrition and gaining useful knowledge on the different types of fats. Enlisting in a low fat diet doesn’t mean that we should eliminate fats from our diet altogether. Certain types of fat are essential for creating and storing energy. Fat provides essential acids that aid in growth, healthy skin, and a healthy metabolism. Fat is also critical in the absorption of certain fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K). Each of these functions is crucial to proper body function and stable overall health in an individual. Before you dedicate every meal you eat to scouring nutrition labels and cutting out every ounce of fat, take some time to educate yourself on the different types of fats and their purposes.
What is saturated fat? What foods are high in saturated fat?
These fats are found in foods that come from animal (beef, lamb, pork, poultry, butter, cream, milk, cheeses) and plant (coconut oil, palm oil, cocoa butter, palm kernel oil). Saturated fat is typically the type of fat labeled as the “bad fat” and is to be avoided for individuals looking to lose weight and maintain a healthier diet. Saturated fats directly raise an individual’s total and LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol levels. LDL cholesterol is what is known as the “bad” cholesterol, with higher levels of LDL cholesterol increasing your risk of heart attacks. As general advice, many say to avoid saturated fats as much as possible. While there is some controversy about how dangerous and harmful all saturated fats are, it is mostly agreed that they should be consumed in moderation.
What is trans fat or hydrogenated fat?
Trans fats are tricky. These fats are unsaturated fat; however, they can raise your total an LDL cholesterol levels (just as saturated fats can) while simultaneously lowering HDL (the good one) cholesterol levels. Trans fats are used in processed foods to prolong their shelf life. Things like packaged cookies, cakes, fries, and donuts are likely candidates for trans fats. As a standard rule, any product that contains “hydrogenated oil” of some sort probably contains trans fats to some degree. The effects that trans fats have on our cholesterol put us at a higher risk for heart disease and heart attack. Some argue that trans fats are actually more dangerous than saturated fats. In January of 2006, the FDA required that all food manufacturers list trans fat content on food labels. Knowing what these dangerous fats are is a crucial step.