For years we’ve been told that to feel better, lower our cancer risk, lose weight and prevent heart disease, we should follow a low fat diet. Unfortunately, this advice has led many folks to wrongly assume that all fats are bad, thus replacing healthy fats with refined and sweetened fat-free carbohydrates. As a result, obesity, metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes rates have skyrocketed.
Studies show all fats are not created equal and the type of fat we consume is more important than the amount. Fats are necessary for a healthy brain and nervous system as well as weight loss, blood sugar balance, absorption of fat-soluble vitamins, increased immunity and protection from inflammation.
Saturated fats are solid at room temperature. Dairy fats, meats, coconut, palm and palm kernel oils are primarily saturated.
Polyunsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature and liquid when refrigerated. Sunflower, safflower, flaxseed, walnut, fish, corn, cottonseed and soybean oils are primarily polyunsaturated. Many Americans are deficient in omega-3s, an important class of polyunsaturated fatty acids that are found in salmon, walnuts and flaxseed.
Monounsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature, but often solidify when refrigerated. They are found predominately in olive, canola, peanut and avocado oils, as well as high oleic sunflower and high oleic safflower oils.
Trans fats are rampant in our food supply! Made from partially hydrogenated liquid oil and found in shortening, margarine, baked goods, fried foods, and packaged, processed foods, these damaged fats are linked to inflammation and increased risk for cancer, diabetes, stroke, heart disease and other chronic diseases. It’s safest to avoid whenever possible!
The Bottom Line
- Olive, canola and sesame oil (great for cooking)
- Nuts, seeds, avocado and olives
- Lean meats
- Low fat dairy products
- Wild-caught fish or canned fish such as salmon or sardines
- Eggs* containing omega-3 DHA (check the label on the egg carton)
Choose in moderation:
- A little butter or cream
- Small amounts of full fat dairy products
Avoid whenever possible:
- Margarine containing partially-hydrogenated vegetable oils
- Solid vegetable shortening
- Commercial peanut butter made with hydrogenated oil
- Packaged baked goods and overly processed foods
- Fried foods
Replacements for cooking:
- Replace shortening or margarine with equal amounts of canola oil when baking
- Bake, broil or lightly sauté meats instead of frying
- If avoiding egg yolks, two egg whites equals one whole egg
- Substitute low fat dairy for full fat dairy products
- Replace half the fat in baked goods with unsweetened applesauce or fruit purées
*Consuming cholesterol has little effect on total amount of cholesterol circulating in the blood. Studies show that consuming an egg a day is not associated with a higher risk of heart disease. Check with your doctor, especially if you’re diabetic!