FINDING THE RIGHT “FATS”
As you are sitting comfortably in an Italian diner, you look through the menu and some dishes draw your eyes. “Apple walnut salad sounds great, but its Balsamic dressing is oily, and isn’t walnut high in calories? Nah, this isn’t healthy… but wait, there is grilled salmon! I’ll have this one, but… hey, it comes with pesto sauce and it’s oily, so this one is a no-go then. I’ve been trying to get healthier now. Why is it so hard to find delectable dishes that are good for my health?”
It happens all the time – people cutting off “fatty foods” from life, believing all of them are unhealthy.
But what if it isn’t so?
Getting to know more about fats can make taking care of health fun, and delicious. Here is what you need to know about various types of fat: the good, the bad, and the not-that-ugly.
THE GOOD GUYS
Don’t be afraid of “fats” – not all of them are villains.
People often link “fat” to gaining weight, but fat deprivation is not a healthy option nonetheless. There are types of fat that you should happy to take them into your body and let them assist your body functions. Just get to know more about them, and you wouldn’t want to live without these fats!
If you have heard about consuming fat could be great to your heart, monounsaturated fat could be the guy!
Monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) are commonly found in plants, nuts, seeds, and olive oil. The MUFAs come as various types: oleic acid, palmitoleic acid, and vaccenic acid. The most common one is oleic acid, which, luckily, is the one to guard your cardiovascular system. (https://cardiab.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12933-015-0237-9)
Its foremost gateway to preventing heart condition is lowering bad cholesterol level, LDL, which would soon turn into plaque and can clog arteries. It also delivers vital nutrients to take care of your body’s cells.
Even though this type of fat contains as much calories as others (9 calories per gram), but compared to other types of fat like trans- or saturated fat, it is much preferable when it comes to getting in shape and healthy diets. Nevertheless, not consuming “too much” of anything is still the key.
The best source of MUFAs is olive oil. Almonds, cashew nuts, peanuts, and pistachios are also rich in this health-loving fat as well. Besides, obtaining such beneficial fat can be completely tasty – just go for Mediterranean dishes!
Despite being oily, people in the Mediterranean countries tend to have lower risk for heart attack. The acts of dipping bread in olive oil, having savory aglio et olio (olive oil pasta), or indulge in the joy pesto sauce brings – they could be surprisingly healthful. (https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamanetworkopen/fullarticle/2717565 )
Polyunsaturated fat is considered “essential fat”, since you need to obtain it only from foods (your body cannot just create it), yet it is very crucial for your whole body, especially for brain and heart.
This type of fat is component of your cell membranes, so lacking thereof could be worrisome. It also assists your body in reducing bad cholesterol (LDL) and boosting good one (HDL). There are a myriad of aids polyunsaturated fat can provide to your body, and you will be amazed by what such nutrient can do.
OMEGA-3 FATTY ACID
Omega-3 is well-known as a requisite nutrient for brain. but what else does it do to your body?
The omega-3 fatty acid has 2 important types: EPA and DHA, and both of them can me mostly found in seafood. EPA helps reducing inflammation, decreasing triglycerides, preventing your blood from clotting, and taking care of your heart. (https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-994/eicosapentaenoic-acid-epa) DHA is actually the most crucial of its kind, as it plays vital row in child development, lowering cholesterol, delaying brain’s aging, as well as protecting you from heart disease. (https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-864/docosahexaenoic-acid-dha)
Each natural food contains different amount of EPA and DHA, and the best sources are fatty fishes like salmon, herring, sardines, mackerel, tuna, as well as shellfish.
With modern lifestyles, there are many marine Omega-3 choices with varying EPA and DHA levels. EPA and DHA are vital in keeping your brain functioning properly. In order to ensure clean quality Omega-3, consider krill oil supplements.
OMEGA-6 FATTY ACID
Sources of healthful omega-6 are safflower oil, grape seed oil, flaxseed oil, sunflower oil, and soybean oil – those available at the convenient store next door! And, they are really great for your health.
For those who are on diet, fried dishes could scare you away. In fact, you can actually gain an essential nutrient – omega-6 fatty acid – from the certain types of oil, so don’t be too afraid to enjoy some oily bites every once in a while.
Just like its cousin, omega-6 fatty acid is a friend for your heart and blood circulation, but they cannot substitute one another. For an optimal diet plan, the ratio of omega-3 intake should be somewhat higher than omega-6. (https://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/no-need-to-avoid-healthy-omega-6-fats) Planning for omega-6 is relatively easy – just replace saturated fat with omega-6-rich oils when it comes to cooking your meals.
SATURATED FAT – THE INBETWEENER
Too much of anything is never good. You can even get it wrong if you consume too much of health-friendly fruits. So, when it comes to consuming meals high in saturated fat, should you just stay completely away from it?
Good news is, you don’t have to cut it off. Don’t be too worried to enjoy your favorite striploin steak for a special dinner. Moderation is the key.
The amount of saturated fat intake recommended by the American Heart Association is 5% to 6% of total calories per day, which is about 120 calories (13 grams) from such fat if you need 2,000 calories per day. (https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/fats/saturated-fats)
Saturated fat is easy to spot, as it will remain solid in room temperature, while unsaturated fat will be liquid in the same temperature. Yes, butter, fat in red meats, poultry with skin, and cheese, they are ones rich in saturated fat.
What does it do to our body though? It may increase the level of cholesterol, including the bad (LDL), but does comes the good (HDL) as well. The link between saturated fat and heart disease is still unable to be clearly proven yet. It is good for cooking indeed, as it is resistant to high temperature, whereas good ol’ polyunsaturated fat can induce harm when heated. (https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2FBF02873539)
To put it simply: it’s not that bad, but it’s not good to when consuming to much of it. It is best when you replace saturated fat with unsaturated fats.
TRANS FAT – A MASSIVE NO!
Even though it is possible to find natural trans fat in some dairy products or meat, the amount is relatively low and it is not that harmful. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22332075) The one you should abstain from is artificial trans-fatty acid, which is huge part of mouth-watering bacons, pizza, munchies, cakes, cookies, deep-fried stuffs at fast food places, and a lot of processed foods.
Trans fat emerges through a process of hydrogenation, which turns liquid into a solid fat at room temperature. (https://www.fda.gov/food/food-additives-petitions/trans-fat) It is indeed a form of saturated fat, but the process makes it become hazardous.
Using trans fat in cooking and in products has long been controversial, as it is significantly related to the tendency for heart disease and the level of bad cholesterol (LD), without any other health benefit to make up for its misdeeds. Despite its being infamous, it is still widely in use as it adds pleasurable texture to foods, and it is cheap.
Even though there are governmental attempts to control the amount of trans fat used in processed products, it is not yet extensively eliminated from foods. Unfortunately, there are no minimum trans fat amount that is considered “safe” (https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/fats/trans-fat) – cutting it back completely is the only way to go if you want a healthy heart.
When groceries shopping, look for “partially hydrogenated oils” on labels, and put that package of tempting snack down if it is there. When in a fast food diner, just walk out empty-handed.
SO…WHAT TO EAT THEN, ON A DAILY BASIS?
When it comes to a nutritional plan, the hardest part is to keep it a daily routine. However, it isn’t always the case, and here are easy-to-find sources of nutritious fats:
- AVOCADO: choose avocado smoothies when you want midday refreshment, and go for fresh avocado salad if it is on the menu.
- BONE BROTH: as bone marrow is very rich in iron, vitamin A and K, selenium, zinc, manganese, and of course, omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, bone broth is a great alternative to obtain healthful nutrients. It is easily prepared at home, and conveniently found at your favourite noodles or ramen places.
- WILD CAUGHT SALMON: the color of wild caught salmon is more reddish-orange, when the farmed one is mostly in peachy-orange. Aside from contamination from farming, the naturally grown one is far richer in the essential oil and other nutrients.
- CANNED SARDINES, HERRING OR MACKEREL: these canned foods are low in price and convenient, and the process of tinning fatty fishes does help locking the nutrients! (https://www.fishisthedish.co.uk/seafood-stories/seafood-spotlights/tinned-fish-the-facts) Additionally, some of them are tinned in sunflower or olive oil, which makes it an excellent source of indispensable unsaturated fats.
- NUTS: simply almonds, cashews, pistachio, and walnuts as part of your meals, side dish, or during-the-day snack.
- SUNFLOWER OIL OR SOYBEAN OIL: if you need to fry or stir-fry in high temperature, consider using these oils. However, consuming too much of them may lead to inflammation, so be sure to have the right moderation.
- EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL: this is indeed the very best oil, but it is not good when cooked in high temperature. Make it part of pasta sauces, salad dressings, or brushing it on fish steaks. Pick the extra virgin one, as its natural process maintains higher antioxidants that refined or virgin ones.