Fat is a macronutrient that gives us energy, helps our bodies absorb vitamins A, D, E and K and helps our bodies grow and develop. We need some fat in our diet, but it’s important to choose the right types of fat and not to eat too much.
Where can fat be found? It is found in mostly in the Milk and Alternatives and Meat and Alternatives food groups (animal products), avocadoes, nuts, oils and seeds.
There are three main kinds of fat:
• Trans fats
Different types of fats have different effects on health.
Unsaturated fats are healthy fats. There are two main kinds of unsaturated fats:
• Monounsaturated – avocadoes, nuts (almonds, cashews, peanuts, pecans), seeds and vegetable oils (canola, olive, peanut, safflower, sesame, sunflower).
• Polyunsaturated – fatty fish (herring, mackerel, salmon, smelt, trout), fish oils, nuts (almonds, cashews, peanuts, pecans), seeds and vegetable oils (canola, corn, flaxseed, soybean, sunflower).
Eating small amounts of unsaturated fats (and less foods with saturated and trans fats) can help lower your cholesterol levels and your risk for heart disease.
Saturated fats are unhealthy fats. They can be found in:
• animal products (beef, chicken, lamb, pork, veal)
• dairy products (butter, cheese, whole milk)
• hydrogenated oils (coconut, palm, palm kernel)
This type of fat has been shown to increase LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels, which can increase your risk for heart attacks and stroke.
Trans fats are also unhealthy fats. They are naturally found in some foods, but can also be created when liquid vegetable oils are changed into solid or semi-solid fats such as margarines, shortenings or other hard fats in a process called hydrogenation. You can also find trans fats in breaded and fried foods and bakery products (cakes, cookies, crackers, croissants, doughnuts, muffins, pastries, snack foods).
This type of fat, as with saturated fats, has been shown to increase LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels, which can increase your risk for heart attacks and stroke. But unlike saturated fats, trans fat also lowers HDL (“good”) cholesterol, which is also a risk factor for heart disease.
When choosing foods, choose ones that have little or no saturated and trans fats. Check the Nutrition Facts Table on products and choose ones that contain more healthy unsaturated fats. However, remember, moderation is key! Choose a diet that is lower in fat overall.
I have now gone through Canada’s Food Guide and the major nutrients. Although I planned on continuing with vitamins and minerals, I’m going to take a break with this train of blogging and focus on some warmer weather topics. If you have certain questions about summer foods, barbecuing, food safety, etc., please send them my way and I’ll include them in my blogs.
If you have any nutrition topics you would like me to write about or have a question you would like answered, email me at [email protected]. I would really like to hear from you!