Sarah-Jane Bedwell, SELF magazine
Fat has such a bad rap! But don't be afraid of it, friends, because it's an essential for good health. It gives us long-lasting energy, helps keep us warm and gives us sexy J-Lo-like curves. Plus, fat helps to balance hormonal levels and helps us to absorb vitamins A, D, E and K. If you skimp on it, get ready for hair loss, a less-than-glowing complexion and fatigue. Of course, too much of it isn't a good thing either, as it is bad for your heart and for your waist.
So how does a girl eat fat in a healthy way? The secret is picking the right type (which is probably even more important than the amount you eat).
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The types of dietary fat are:
Saturated fat: Saturated fat is the worst type of fat for your heart because it increases total cholesterol and the LDL (bad) cholesterol when consumed in excess in the diet. Limit or avoid foods that are high in saturated fat, such as fatty meats, butter, margarine, processed/hydrogenated oils, tropical oils, full-fat dairy products and fried foods. You'll see saturated fat listed directly on the nutrition facts panel.
Trans fat: Trans fats are man-made saturated fats and are the worst of all saturated fats. They are found in processed foods, shortening and regular stick margarine. To check to see if a food contains trans fat, look for hydrogenated oils listed in the ingredient list. If you see hydrogenated oil listed, the product contains trans fats. Also, be aware that just because a product may be trans fat-free, does not mean that it is free of saturated fat. You'll see trans fat listed directly on the nutrition facts panel.
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Polyunsaturated fat: Polyunsaturated fat is more heart-healthy than saturated fat, as it can help to decrease total cholesterol and LDL (bad) cholesterol when used in place of saturated fat. Polyunsaturated fat is typically found in vegetable oils--sunflower, safflower, corn and flaxseed oils. Look for these in the ingredients list, as they're not required to be in the nutrition panel. One type of polyunsaturated fat is essential fatty acids. These fats are essential for good heart health and overall health and include:
- Omega-3 fatty acids (highly polyunsaturated): found in seafood such as tuna, mackerel and salmon, as well as nuts and canola and flaxseed oils.
- Omega-6 fatty acids (highly polyunsaturated): found in vegetable oils such as soybean, corn and safflower oils.
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Monounsaturated fats: Monounsaturated fats are heart-healthy fats. They can help decrease total and LDL (bad) cholesterol when used in place of saturated fat and may also have a minimal beneficial role in increasing HDL (good) cholesterol. Monounsaturated fats are found in vegetable oil such as olive, peanut, canola and many nut oils. Look for these in the ingredients list, as they're not required to be in the nutrition panel. They are also found in nuts and nut butters, olives and avocados. In short, choose monounsatured fats most often, followed by polyunsaturated fats. Choose saturated fats least often and trans fats rarely, if ever.
To add some healthy fat to your diet, try topping your yogurt with a couple of tablespoons of nuts at breakfast, using an avocado instead of mayo on your sandwich at lunch, snacking on some olives or cooking salmon with olive oil for dinner to work healthy fats into your day.
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Sarah-Jane Bedwell, SELF magazine