Skinny on Dietary Fat

Believe it or not, you shouldn’t try to eliminate all fat from your diet. Some fats actually promote good health. Fat is a major source of energy and it helps the body absorb vitamins and minerals. Fat is needed for blood clotting, cell development and nerve function.  But there are good fats and bad fats.

Dietary fat can be generally classified as unsaturated or saturated.

Unsaturated fats are the good guys! The two main types are monounsaturated and polyunsaturated.

  • Monounsaturated fats can help improve your cholesterol levels and lower your risk of heart disease. They can also help to moderate insulin and blood sugar levels. Foods that contain monounsaturated fats include olive, peanut and canola oils, as well as avocados and most seeds and nuts.
  • Polyunsaturated fats aid in muscle movements and blood clotting. Since the body does not produce this type of fat, you need to get it through your diet. Polyunsaturated fats can be found in fatty fish such as sardines and salmon. Additionally, this type of fat can be found walnuts, sunflower and chia seeds and the oils derived from them.

Saturated fats are not as healthy. These fats can raise both the good (HDL) and bad (LDL) type of cholesterol which may tip the balance towards bad. Higher levels of LDL can lead to an increased risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Saturated fat comes mainly from animal sources such as red meat, poultry and full-fat dairy products.

Eat healthy fats. Make simple substitutions. Instead of butter or margarine, use oil-based salad dressings and spreads. Replace full fat dairy options with their low-fat counterparts. Avoid processed food whenever possible. Choosing unsaturated instead of saturated fats may help reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke.

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