Wednesday, November 4, 2009

What is Fat?

What IS fat exactly? Why is it bad for you? Does it have any benefits at all? Let's find out!

Now before I begin, I am writing this to educate, not to scare. I wrote this blog to help my readers make good decisions about things that they buy, not to freak anyone out. I am also not a dietitian, a certified nutritionist, or a medical professional. I got all my wisdom from classes I took at the University and from the internet. With that said, ONWARD!

Fat is known in two forms: Fats and Oils

Fats are fats that are solid at room temperature. They usually come from animals, for example: lard, fish oil and butter.

Oils are fats that are liquid at room temperature. They usually come from plants and some examples are soy beans, sunflowers, sesame, coconut, olive and vegetable oils. Oils are typically extracted from the seed of the plant and are usually used as shortening, texture, flavor and flavor bases. Oils can also be "hydrogenated" or "partially hydrogenated", which is when things start to get bad.

But I hear you saying over there, Pucciola, just get to the good stuff: what is good for me and what is bad?


:::Monounsaturated Fats (MUF's)::: 

- Peanuts
- Walnuts
- Almonds
- Pistachios

Certain Oils
-  Canola Oil
- Olive Oil

Avocado (A personal favorite)

These fats lower overall cholesterol, especially LDL cholesterol (the bad stuff!) but at the same time, raises your HDL cholesterol (the good stuff!). It's a win win situation. Eat more of these things, they help big time in losing body fat. 

:::Polyunsaturated fats (PUF's):::

- Salmon
- Fish oil



Safflower and Sunflower Oils

Polyunsaturated fats lower LDL cholesterol (theres that bad stuff again!). Omega 3 fatty acids also belong to this group, which you can (and I do!) supplement with Fish Oil pills, which lowers inflammation and promotes cardiovascular health. 

Now, are you ready for the not-so-good stuff?


:::Saturated Fats:::

Saturated fats are mainly found in animal fats:
- Meat
- Dairy
- Eggs
- Seafood

But there are also some plants guilty of containing these fats as well:
- Coconut Oil 
- Palm Oil
- Palm Kernel Oil

Saturated fats raise cholesterol, including the bad stuff (I bet you knew already that it's called LDL!) 

:::Trans Fats:::

Now, recall when I talked about "hydrogenated" oils and things of the like? Here's where they come in. 

Scientists took perfectly good oils and "hydrogenated" them so that they would hold up better during the processing procedure and last longer on the shelf. Trans Fatty Acids are formed from this process. 

Where can I find these fats, you ask? 

- In many commercially processed foods 
- Commercially fried foods (*ahem* McDonalds French Fries :P) 
- Packaged snacks
- Microwave popcorn
- Vegetable shortening
- Hard, stick margarine 

But how can we avoid these? It's not realistic to think that you will never need to buy a can of spaghetti-o's for your children, or resist buying that popcorn from the movie theater, but here are some tips that you can try to limit your intake or Trans Fatty Acids.

- Avoid using oils that are high in saturated and trans fats. Use heart healthy Olive, Canola, and Flaxseed Oil instead!
- If you must use packaged foods, try to find things which labels read "no trans-fats".
- Use leaner meats and low fat dairy products to avoid that unwanted saturated fats. 

This is the end of my spiel. I hope everyone learned a little something. This is the first of my upcoming blogs about health! Please leave comments and questions!!

Stay Tuned!