Distinguishing between healthy fats and bad fats is one of the most important first steps to improving your diet, long-term health, and the way you feel. I used to believe that a healthy diet meant consuming as little dietary fat as possible. Trying to follow the “fat-free” craze, I was immediately turned off from anything with even a trace amount of fat in it, even if it contained mostly healthy fats. Under the impression that all fats were evil, I never really paid attention to the little subcategories…
Taking an amazing nutrition class this past semester with Roberta Anding, MS,RD/LD,CSSD,CDE opened my eyes to the truth about fats: that banning them completely from your diet is NOT the healthiest way to live, and that “eating fat will make you fat” is actually a misconception. The key is understanding the different types of fat. Replacing bad fats with right kinds of fats (in moderation of course) in a healthy overall diet actually promotes health and prevents disease more effectively than getting rid of all fats.
The basic types of fat:
The BAD fats: trans and saturated
Trans fat is evil and you should avoid it at all costs. It raises bad cholesterol (LDL) and lowers good cholesterol (HDL), a double whammy for your heart. Common sources of trans fats are margarine, vegetable shortening (crisco), deep fried things, fast food, processed foods, especially packaged baked goods. Some trans fats are found naturally in animal products, but most are created through food processing. Food manufacturers take unsaturated liquid oil and partially saturate the double bonds by adding hydrogen gas (process of hydrogenation), transforming it into a solid trans fat to increase the shelf life of foods. These oils are called partially-hydrogenated – whenever you see this phrase in the ingredients list, sound your alarms! Even if the package claims “no trans fat,” there might STILL BE TRANS FAT because of lax regulations- anything that has less than .5 g is allowed to say it has no trans fat. Food manufacturers can be sneaky by simply decreasing the serving size so the amount of trans fat falls within these requirements.
~MM healthy tips~
1) The best way to reduce your chances of consuming malicious trans fats is don’t eat processed junk or fast food. But if this isn’t an option for you, at least check the ingredients to make sure you don’t see “partially-hydrogenated” or “shortening” anywhere!
2) Even if something says “cholesterol-free” doesn’t mean it won’t raise your cholesterol! Vegetable shortening obviously has no cholesterol itself being a plant source, but the trans and saturated fat it contains can have WORSE effects on your blood cholesterol than consuming dietary cholesterol itself.