Fats in Food Can be Your Friend and Here’s the Proof
Fats in food doesn`t have to be bad for your health.
The Harvard Nurses’ Health Study found trans fats to be far worse than saturated fats in relation to heart disease. When 30 calories of assorted carbohydrates was replaced with 30 calories of either saturated fats or trans fats (bad fats) on a daily basis, the risk of heart attack arose alarmingly, in fact nearly double for those subjects who regularly ingested just 30 calories of trans fats. Still unconvinced?
For those of you who think that all fats are to be avoided, think again. In the same study, when 80 calories of assorted carbohydrates was replaced by 80 calories of either monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats (good fats), risk for heart disease was lowered by 30% to 40%.
Omega 3 fatty acids, mostly from cold water fish, is gaining momentum from research as a means of lowering the risk of heart disease by up to 25% based on consumption of as little as one gram a day. This translates to a daily 4-ounce serving of fish or the equivalent of fish oil capsules.
As if you need more incentive, replacing red meat up to five days a week with two or three servings of skinless poultry and two or three servings of fish (ie: salmon) will lower your risk of heart disease by more than 50%.
According to registered dietician Leslie Beck in a January 3, 2001 column in The Toronto Star, “Fish offer protective powers. Omega 3 fatty acids in oily fish, such as salmon, trout, sardines, herring and mackerel, help to lower blood fats and reduce the stickiness of platelets (the cells that form blood clots).
“Omega 3 substitute foods include flaxseed, canola or walnut oils. Studies in the U.S. show that women who add these oils to salads five times a week reduce risk of heart attack by 54%.”
Now how simple is that? Even if you can’t stand the thought of eating more fresh fish in place of red meat, you can still replace most red meat portions with skinless poultry and add these Omega 3 rich oils to your salads or steamed vegetables.
With that simple adjustment, you have dramatically reduced the intake of disease-causing bad fats and replaced them with healthful good fats.
When it comes to fats in food, the proof is in the percentages. To make easy adjustments and wiser food choices, let’s take a look at the good and bad content of everyday fatty foods:
Percentage of Specific Types of Fat
In Common Oils and Fats
Oils Saturated Monounsaturated Polyunsaturated Trans
Canola 7% 58% 29% O
Safflower 9 12 74 O
Sunflower 10 20 66 O
Corn 13 24 60 O
Olive 13 72 8 O
Soybean 16 44 37 O
Peanut 17 49 32 O
Palm 50 37 10 O
Coconut 87 6 2 O
Shortening 22 29 29 18
Lard 39 44 11 1
Butter 60 26 5 5
70% Soybean Oil,
Stick 18 2 29 23
67% Soybean & Corn Oil
Spread, Tub 16 27 44 11
48% Soybean Oil,
Spread, Tub 17 24 49 8
Soybean & Canola
Oil Spread, Tub 18 22 54 5
* Values expressed as percent of total fat; data are from analyses at Harvard School of Public Health Lipid Laboratory and U.S.D.A. publications.
Let’s look at a couple of examples. Olive oil is a healthy fat because it contains only 13% Saturated Fatty Acids (SFAs) and no harmful Trans Fatty Acids (TFAs) but contains 72% of good Monounsaturated Fatty Acids (MUFAs) and 8% Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids (PUFAs). It is a Monounsaturated fat because that is the majority of its content.
Compare this to the total fat content of beef, of which 51% is bad fats in the form of Saturated Fatty Acids (SFAs). And this assumes the cut of beef is lean and not well marbled. To be blunt, if you are a regular red meat eater, you are clogging your coronary arteries with every bite!
The solution is simple. By cutting back on saturated fatty red meats and substituting monounsaturated fish or poultry, you increase levels of good cholesterol (HDL), helping your blood circulation to keep your coronary arteries free of plaque and your liver efficiently able to eliminate bad cholesterol (LDL).
Nobody is asking you to abandon red meat and become a vegetarian, but if you simply lower your consumption of red meat each week, that is easily doable, don’t you think? Do this and you can look forward to that once-a-week barbecued steak or burger without lasting harm or guilt.
Apart from the obvious healthy benefits, you’ll feel noticeably better and enjoy higher energy levels. Also, if you are eating less saturated fatty foods, which more readily stay in your body as stored fat, it stands to reason that you will help yourself lose weight in a healthy, methodical manner. This is because you will be eating foods that are more easily burned and converted to energy rather than become fat stored in your body.
When it comes to fats, we need to adjust our thinking before we can change our ways of eating. This is still harder done than said, especially when it comes to harmful trans fats. Fortunately, help has arrived. Nutrition fact food labels are now required to show the content of trans fats.
Regardless, beware the word “hydrogenated” on food labels, particularly margarine. Products containing hydrogenated oils are high in trans fats. So what’s better, butter or margarine?
Butter versus Margarine
· Butter is high in bad (LDL) cholesterol and Saturated Fats.
· Margarine is made from unsaturated vegetable oils so it doesn’t contain as much bad (LDL) cholesterol.
· Margarine can contain high levels of trans fats.
Solution – Use liquid vegetable oils or use soft tub margarine that is labeled “trans fat free” or “Non Hydrogenated” or both. And whatever you choose, learn to lessen the amount you apply to breads and the frying pan.
If you’re still not convinced enough to eat more Monounsaturated (MUFAs) and Polyunsaturated (PUFAs) fats and less Saturated (SFAs) and Trans (TFAs) fats, I suggest you buy some cheap tubs of lard and spoon it into your mouth repeatedly as if it were ice cream.
Did I just detect a grimace of disgust at the thought? Well, guess what? Eating many of the Saturated and Trans fatty foods we eat is tantamount to doing the same thing – only with flavor added to make it palatable.
An easy adjustment is to make ice cream an occasional treat rather than one of your major food groups. The next time you walk into your favorite ice cream parlor, picture the tubs of ice cream as tubs of lard. They might as well be for all the good ice cream does for you.
Now it’s your turn. Only you can determine your own health goals and game plan. On a separate sheet of paper, finish this statement: Now that I know more about fats in food, here are five simple, easy and effective MODERATE adjustments I will make today toward the avoidance of bad fats and the healthy consumption of good fats:
This the the third post in a three-part series on the effects of fats in food on our health. For previous posts, see ‘Fats’ category.