Happy Valentine ’s Day everyone! I hope that everyone takes some time today to think about their hearts and how to take care of them. Over the past few weeks, we have been discussing fats- the good and the bad- in many of our classes. Our country has had a love/ hate relationship with fats for a long time. There was the low fat craze and more recently the low carbohydrate phase- when fats became more acceptable. A lot of our fear about fats may come from the word itself- will fats make me fat? But we need fats in our daily diets because they help us to maintain our health! Fats provide structure for our cells, help us to make hormones, allow us to absorb nutrients such as Vitamin A,D,E and K and store energy. Not only are they good in our bodies, but also in our food. Fats help improve the texture and taste of our foods and eating them can help us feel satiated faster and for longer. It’s important to note that there are 3 different types of fats.
Unsaturated fats (polyunsaturated and monounsaturated): Unsaturated fats are molecules that do not have all of the total possible hydrogen atoms that they could have- i.e., they are not “saturated” with hydrogen atoms. Because they are not saturated, they do not lie flat. All of the molecules bump into one another and it is very difficult for them to compact. This is why they tend to be liquid. These fats are the best for our health. They help increase our HDL (good cholesterol) levels and lower our LDL (bad cholesterol) levels; they take care of your heart! Omega 3 fatty acids are a type of unsaturated fats that help fuel your brain- we need to eat these fats because our bodies cannot make them. So, it’s important to eat plenty of healthy fats including oils, nuts and fatty fish. Yum!
Saturated fats: These are the fats that we want to limit. They have all the hydrogen atoms that they can, so they lie flat which allows them to stack. This is what helps saturated fats stay solid. These fats can clog up our arteries and raise our LDL levels- double trouble for our hearts. It is nearly impossible to avoid all saturated fats and doing so would probably lead to some unappetizing foods. It’s important to keep saturated fats low but to enjoy them when you do eat them. If you love butter, no problem! Just make sure not to eat an entire stick a day. The key here is moderation and truly enjoying what you do eat.
Trans fat: These are fats you should (almost) never eat. They are made in factories. The general process is to take an unsaturated fat (which has kinks) and flatten it out so that it can be solid at room temperature. An example of this is margarine. Although it’s made from vegetable oil (an unsaturated fat), it has been made solid at room temperature due to hydrogenation. The process was developed to help foods be more “shelf stable” i.e., last longer on the shelf (which is why a Twinkie never goes stale!). To make sure you’re not eating trans fat, it is important to read the ingredient list. If you see “partially hydrogenated” or “hydrogenated”, then there is trans fat in the product. Food companies are allowed to label foods “trans fat free” or 0 g trans fat if the product contains less than 0.5 g trans fat/ serving- tricky!You can find more information about fats- the good and the bad- at the site below:
And another reason why fats are so good and some good recipes for salad dressings: http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/02/11/dress-up-your-salad/?ref=health
The bottom line is to eat more healthful and delicious unsaturated fats, limit (but enjoy) saturated fats and avoid trans fats (make sure to check those labels!). Take care of your heart and enjoy today!