Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The good and bad about fats

Good fats, bad fats, good cholesterol and bad cholesterol-What's the deal? Let me try to explain.

First, fat is the most calorically dense macronutrient with 9 kcal per gram vs. 4 kcal per gram for protein and carbohydrates. The recommendation for intake is 30% of calories per day. If you eat 1600 calories then that is about 53 grams of fat. Fat provides satiety to meals and also a nice flavor so to lose weight you must limit calories in total. We thought a low fat diet would decrease the risk of heart disease but we now know it is not the amount of fat but the type of fat that encourages good health. There are good fats and bad fats. Good fats are polyunsaturated fats and monounsaturated fats. Omega 3's are also very necessary for good health. Bad fats include saturated fats and trans fats.
Why are they good and bad? Since fat is not water soluble, fat and cholesterol travel through the bloodstream in protein packages called lipoproteins. Cells latch onto these lipoproteins to extract the nutrients when needed. When our blood supplies are too full of these lipoproteins, mostly because we eat more than we need, they form deposits on our cell walls. This can cause a blockage which stops the blood and nutrients from reaching the heart.
There are three types of lipoproteins, LDLs, HDLs and triglycerides. The LDL is the garbage and the HDL is the garbage truck which carries the LDL out of the system. Triglycerides increase immediately when we eat and carry most of our fats.
To increase the HDL and decrease the LDL we can change our diet to include fats that raise the HDL and lower the LDL. Monounsaturated fats, olive oil, canola oil and avocados, decrease the LDL and increase the HDL. Polyunsaturated Omega 3's do the same. Trans fats and saturated fats are the problem. Trans fats are man made fats. Oils fused with hydrogen to make them solid. These increase the LDL and decreased the HDL. Saturated fats do the same but are naturally found in red meats, butter, ice cream and other full fat dairy. So read your labels and decrease the trans and sats and increase the monos and polys. Eat fish and walnut oil, nuts and flax seeds. Decrease fried foods from fast food restaurants, butter and fatty meats. To decrease triglycerides cut down on high fructose corn syrup and total calories and take fish oils. Sound easy? Sometimes not, but we keep working at it.

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