Fats - The Ugly, The Bad and The Good
What is all this talk about fats? Should I care? We break it down into nice digestible bits for you.
As we saw in the previous article 'The Failure of Low-Fat' the low fat dieting trend was useless and gave no benefit. We did learn though that low fat diets and just regular eating didn't make a difference between the two of them in health outcomes (including cancer, heart disease and weight gain). This seems odd given that fat in the diet was linked to heart disease so how could it be that removing it didn't reduce heart disease? The studies didn't separate the types of fat and obesity as factors, which type of fat makes a big difference. What we can look at it is which types of fat impact our health by looking at the ugly, the bad and the good.
The ugly are trans fats which you should avoid as much as possible. You won't be able to completely avoid them since they are in small quantities in red meat and dairy products. What you can avoid are partially hydrogenated oils (on the food label) which is industrially produced trans fats. Luckily many places are phasing them out but they are still quite common in Canadian industrial produced food and restaurant meals.
The bad are saturated fats which are not as bad as trans fats but should be eaten in moderation. Again they are hard to avoid they are in red meats, butter, cheese, ice cream, palm oil, coconut oil and shortening.
The good are unsaturated fats, they may be listed as polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fat. These you can and should eat regularly and often. Many food items contain both. Polyunsaturated fats are found in some oils (canola, corn, flaxseed, soybean, sunflower), fatty fish (salmon, trout, mackerel, herring), nuts & seeds. Monounsaturated fats are found in avocados, nuts & seeds, some oils (olive, canola, peanut, sesame, safflower, sunflower).
So what makes these different fats ugly, bad and good for us? It used to be believed cholesterol levels, but that is not fully true anymore, we will look at the changes in thinking about cholesterol in a future article. What is true is disease risk and prevention.
Trans fats are seen to accelerate the onset of type 2 diabetes and are strongly linked with developing and dying from heart disease. The source seems to play a big role in that industrially produced trans fats are more harmful than naturally occurring trans fats from sources like butter and beef.
Saturated fats are linked to heart diseases and compared with unsaturated fats have a higher chance of premature death if eaten in high amounts. There was a recent well publicized study that said no link existed between saturated fat and disease but with the authors errors and omissions the study is very misleading and should be disregarded. The basic confusion is how they measured what replaced saturated fat in the diet. A lot of the confusion with saturated fat seems to be what it is replaced with, it is like they are stuck in the low fat diet idea and are missing the central point of how healthy/unhealthy saturated fats are by themselves. The unhealthy nature is heavily linked to cholesterol but that is not fully true anymore. As said previously we will come back to saturated fats and cholesterol in a future article.
Unsaturated fats overall are considered quite healthy. In general trans and saturated fats are linked with a higher chance of premature death and unsaturated fats with a lower chance. Unsaturated fats are linked with lower chance of developing type 2 diabetes and help in managing the disease. Also helped are inflammatory conditions for example, arthritis, Crohn's and asthma. Some results are showing a decrease in getting certain cancers, but the evidence is not strong yet. There are some interesting new studies also showing an influence between unsaturated fats and intelligence, also the importance during pregnancy and breastfeeding on the intelligence of the baby.
It is important to realize that most foods contain more than one type of fat and selecting food higher in unsaturated and lower in trans and saturated fats will be the most beneficial. Many supplements are possible but you really don't need them if you eat a varied and balanced diet, which is what we offer at Lakelands Diet Delivery (unless of course a medical reason your doctor recommends supplements).
Something to keep in mind is to not go nuts on the amount of unsaturated fat you consume because any health benefit will be gone if you get overweight from too many calories. Fats are really energy intense, one gram of fat is 9 calories, where as a gram of protein or carbs is less than half at 4 calories.
At Lakelands we don't add any trans fats and limit any natural trans fat sources. We minimize saturated fat to only naturally occurring sources. We do use a lot of unsaturated fats and if possible we replace saturated fats in meals with unsaturated fats or whole grains. Over all we favour whole grains over fats because it is more filling and takes longer to digest keeping you feeling full longer. See our menus for healthy meals you can get to eat everyday.