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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

What Are Healthy Fats?

What are healthy fats?

Including certain fats in your diet can promote cardiovascular health, optimize brain and cellular function, and help protect your organs, bones and joints. Healthy fats are found in cooking oils, nuts and seeds, greens and fish. Certain fruits and vegetables, such as avocados, also contain fat, but in minute amounts.

There are two categories of fat: saturated and unsaturated. Saturated fats are not generally considered healthy fats because the body cannot easily convert them to useful energy. Saturated fats are found in foods such as butter, whole milk, red meat, chicken skin and cheese. It's not healthy to completely cut out these fats, though. The body requires a small amount of saturated fats for cellular function. Unsaturated fats include monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. These fats are found in cooking oils, nuts and seeds, some fruits and vegetables, whole grains and dairy foods. The body can more readily use these fats because they do not "solidify" within the digestive or circulatory system as saturated fats do.

Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated (Omega 3 Fats) are both plant/non meat or poultry based sources of fat. These healthy fats help lower the risk of cardiovascular disease, and have shown some benefits in helping to reduce liver cancer. Healthy fats are also found in more nutrient rich foods versus other forms of fat.

Saturated (found in animal products) and trans fats (engineered fats used to preserve foods and extend shelf life) are the culprits that contribute to raising cholesterol and increasing the risk of heart disease. While most people are keen on avoiding foods high in saturated fats, including red meat, tropical oils, and whole fat dairy, it is the foods rich in trans fat that often slips by undetected. A short list of high trans fat foods include vegetable shortenings, some margarines, crackers, candies, cookies, snack foods, fried foods, baked goods, and other processed foods.
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