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Good Fat vs Bad Fat

Posted on January 26, 2012 | No Comments on Good Fat vs Bad Fat

Whenever we hear the word fat, these immediately come to mind: bilbil, huge/ big/plus-size people, pork, chicharon, coronary heart disease, etc. Basically, most, if not all, descriptions are negative connotations of the word fat. Unless that word is followed by wallet or luck, then that’s the only time people would want to get fat.

Actually, not all fats are bad. There are some fats that are good for our health! Fat is another nutrient from food that gives you energy. Although by nature they are high in calories, we still need fats in our bodies to cushion our organs, act as insulators and even aid in proper hormone production, just to name a few of its functions.

For those with diabetes, the diet prescribed would not only mention”diabetic diet”, “no sources of simple sugars”, “low glycemic index”, but it would also say: “low saturated fat diet”. The question now would be: what IS a low saturated fat diet really? Is it just the same as a low fat diet?

Knowing the type and amount of fat you are eating would help aid in maintaining a healthy heart, healthy weight and even preventing people with diabetes from developing any other health complications.

The different types of fat include the following:

Saturated fats
These types of fat are solid by nature. Usually found in meats: fat in meats, butter, lard, fat from dairy and full cream milk, etc. Most saturated fat sources are animal fat; however, poultry and fish haveless saturated fat than red meat (beef and pork). You may also find it in tropical oils such as coconut oil, palm oil, and cocoa butter, which are often used in non-dairy products (i.e. coffee creamers and whipped toppings).

The effect of saturated fats in the body is that it can increase cholesterol levels, more specifically your LDL-cholesterol, also known as the bad cholesterol.

Trans fatty acids a.k.a. Hydrogenated vegetable oils
Trans fats are similar to saturated fats in terms of degree of firmness or physical attribute: solid; and function: they increase cholesterol levels, both HDL-cholesterol (good cholesterol) and LDL-cholesterol (bad cholesterol). Trans fat comes from vegetables but has been changed or has gone through a process called hydrogenation to make it solid at room temperature and increase shelf life. This type of fat is what makes crackers crispy and pie crusts flaky.

You can also find trans fats in:

  • Processed foods
  • Snack foods, such as chips and crackers
  • Cookies
  • Commercially made cakes
  • Some margarines and salad dressings
  • Foods made with shortening and partially hydrogenated oils

It is advised to limit the intake of saturated fats as they contribute to weight gain and most especially to increase in cholesterol levels, more specifically the LDL-cholesterol.

Unsaturated Fats
Unsaturated fats are liquid in room temperature. They are oils from vegetables, nuts and some fruits. They have also been coined “good fats”, as they are less likely to raise cholesterol levels. However,eating more of unsaturated fats without cutting back on saturated fats may not lower total cholesterol levels.

The different types of unsaturated fats are:

Monounsaturated fats (MUFA)
Eating foods high in MUFA may help lower “bad” LDL cholesterol and keep “good” HDL cholesterol high, thus lowering risk for cardiovascular disease. Good sources are canola oil, olive oil, peanut oil, and grapeseed oil.

Polyunsaturated fats (PUFA)
It is found not only in vegetable oils but also mainly in seafood. Eating PUFAs in place of saturated fat may lower LDL cholesterol levels. Examples are safflower, sunflower, sesame, soybean and corn oils.

Omega 3 fatty acid
This is a type of polyunsaturated fat that may reduce risk of heart disease and acts as an anti-inflammatory agent. Good sourcesare salmon, sardines, mackerel and fresh (not canned) tuna. Vegetable sources would be ground flaxseeds, flaxseed oil, nuts, and seeds.

For an average person with maintenance goals, it is recommended that 20 percent to 35 percent of your total calories each day come from fat. This includes:

  • No trans fat.
  • Up to 10% polyunsaturated fat.
  • Up to 10% saturated fat.
  • 10% to 5% monounsaturated fat.

Going on a low saturated fat diet means that your saturated fat intake should be restricted to less than 7 percent of total calories and trans-fat intake should be minimized. The polyunsaturated fats should be restricted to 6-8 percent of total calories and the remainder of the fats should besupplied by monounsaturated fats (10-15 percent). For example if you are recommended 1800 calories a day, fat source distribution would be: 7 percent of saturated fats = 14 grams saturated fats per day only; 12 -16 grams of polyunsaturated fats (6-8 percent); and 20 – 30 grams of monounsaturated fats.

Low fat, fat-free, or low saturated fat diets do not mean bland foods. It is just a matter of modifying cooking methods and recipes.

Fat-free cooking and recipe modification ideas:

  • Avoid using hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils for cooking or baking. Use vegetable oils such as canola oil, sunflower oil, sesame oil, peanut oil, soybean oil, or olive oil.
  • Avoid saturated fats: coconut oil, palm oil, cocoa butter, bacon, lard, butter, cream, sour cream, whipping cream and shortening.
  • Experiment! There are more ways to cook and prepare foods, don’t stick to deep fat frying and sautĂ©ing. You can bake, broil, grill, boil, poach or steam your dishes without compromising flavor and nutrient contents.
  • Choose clear soups over cream soups. After cooking the soup, you can (1) put it in the freezer, when the fat and soup have separated, scoop out the solidified fat on top, reheat the soup and serve; or (2) make an ice bag using cheesecloth, dip it in the soup bowl, the fats will stick to the cheesecloth and solidify (sebo), remove the cheesecloth with the sebo and serve.
  • Limit egg yolks to 3 or less per week. Two egg whites can substitute for 1 egg.
  • Select lean cuts of meat: chicken (remove the skin before eating), fish, lean beef and lean pork, turkey meat (remove the skin before eating). Baked, broiled or grilled but not fried.
  • Try 1-2 non-meat meals per week using beans, legumes or soy products.
  • Add texture to salads and cereals. Add raw and unsalted nuts or seeds to your vegetable dish, oatmeal or cereals.
  • Dress your salads. Opt for vinaigrettes than Caesar, thousand island, and Asian dressing. You may choose low-fat or fat-free dressings/ mayonnaise. There are some health stores that offer calorie-free salad dressings of your usual favourites.
  • Bake goods made with egg whites, egg substitutes, non-fat milk or skim milk, unsaturated oils or margarine.

Check Nutrition Labels
Since we now live in a fast-paced world and often get food at convenience stores and pre-packed meals, it may be a good idea to get into the habit of reading food labels.

Food labels, also known as Nutrition Facts, are often found on the back of food packaging. This can help you cut down on total fat and saturated fat. It will tell you the amount of nutrients in the food based on 100g of the food or the amount per portion or per serving. They provide information on percent Daily Values (%DV) or the “traffic light color coding” that help you make healthier choices.

When traffic lights are used, red means ‘high’. Leave red foods for the occasional treat, and aim to eat mainly foods that are green or amber.

Here’s more information to help decipher what nutrition labels mean:

  • High fat foods: more than 20 grams of total fat per 100 grams
  • Low fat foods: less than 3 grams of total fat per 100 grams
  • Look out for “saturates” or “sat fat” on the label: this tells you how much saturated fat is in the food.
    • High: more than 5 grams saturated fat per 100 grams
    • Low: 1.5 grams saturated fat or less per 100 grams
    • Medium: between 1.5 grams to 5 grams saturated fat per 100 grams
  • Low fat or reduced fat does not necessarily mean it’s a healthy choice
  • Lower fat simply means food is 30% lower in fat than the standard equivalent
  • They are not necessarily lower in calories. Often the fat is replaced with sugar, and the food may end up with the same, or an even higher, calorie content.

For a more comprehensive and detailed meal plan, it is best to consult your physician, diabetes educator and dietitian.

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