Healthy fat seems like an oxymoron. How can fat be healthy? Here’s the scoop on healthy fat and how it benefits your body.
Cholesterol is a type of lipid (fat) in your bloodstream. Your body’s cells need cholesterol, which means that your body makes what it needs to function; however, we also get cholesterol from the foods we eat. When the body has an abundance of cholesterol, it starts to build up in the arteries, which is known as atherosclerosis. If the arteries narrow, it can become hard for the body to pump blood, which can lead to both heart attacks and strokes.
There are two different types of cholesterol levels – one is bad, and the other is good.
- LDL– Dubbed the “bad” cholesterol, high levels of LDL can increase your risk of heart disease, heart attack and even stroke.
- HDL– The “good” cholesterol, this helps to lower your risk of heart disease, heart attack and stroke.
According to the American Heart Association, “Eating foods containing saturated fat and transfat causes your body to produce even more [cholesterol], raising your blood cholesterol level.”
There are both good and bad fats. Here’s a quick rundown on what you need to know about fats.
- Saturated Fat– Most of these are from animal products, such as beef, pork, lamb, poultry skin, cream, butter, cheese and high-fat dairy products. However, some foods can also contain saturated fat, such as palm oil, palm kernel oil, coconut, coconut oil and cocoa butter.
- Unsaturated Fat– Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are mainly found in salmon, herring, trout, olives, avocados, walnuts and liquid vegetable oils such as canola, corn, soybean, safflower, olives and sunflower.
- Trans Fat– Trans fat is created through an industrial process where hydrogen is added to liquid vegetable oils, making them become a solid. A great example is traditional shortening, which was popular until the early 2000s when trans fat became bad. Trans fat raises your LDL cholesterol while lowering your HDL cholesterol, creating a higher risk of heart disease.
Now that you have a background in cholesterol and the different types of fats let’s move on to what healthy fats are and how they can benefit you.
- Polyunsaturated Fats– These types of fats are awesome for your body! You can find an abundance of these in nuts, seeds, fatty fish and vegetable oils, such as safflower and corn oil. Polyunsaturated fats contain healthy omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, which are very important because our body can’t produce these and we must get them from food and supplements. Polyunsaturated fats can help to lower total overall cholesterol levels, which means they should be on your radar.
- Saturated Fat– In moderation or limited amounts, saturated fat is generally acceptable for your body. However, it’s important to limit the amount of saturated fat you eat because it can increase your total cholesterol levels and even increase your risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Choose lower saturated fat options, such as fat-free dairy products and lean red meats.
- Unsaturated Fats– Healthy unsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature, while the unhealthy trans fats remain solid. Replace solid fats, such as butter, with vegetable and olive oils and replace some of your red meat intake with unsalted nuts or seafood.