What You Need To Know About Fats And Oils

December 7, 2011

Some fat is included in almost all our diets and 20% is not an unusual amount. However it is not the exact amount we consume that matters, it is the type of fat/oil that is the critical factor. This article outlines the types of fat in many of our foodstuffs, how they affect our health and gives a guide to the healthiest fats/oils to use.
There are three main fat groupings, the unsaturated fats – the best ones, saturated fats – the bad ones and trans fats – the real evil ones. Healthy use of fats means maximising the good fats and minimising the bad ones. The result of this will be lower bad cholesterol and higher good cholesterol leading to a much lower risk of heart attack or stroke.

UNSATURATED FATS
These are divided into two groups, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated, both of which are good for you. Examples are:
Monounsaturated – olive, peanut, almond and avocado oils, pumpkin and sesame seeds.
Polyunsaturated – fish, walnut and sunflower oils. Omega 3 oils are in this category.

SATURATED FATS
The main ones we consume and need to cut back on are
Fatty meats, full cream dairy products especially butter, coconut oil

TRANS FATS
These are the ones that cause the most harm. Really cut these back only using as a special treat. A trans fat is a normal fat molecule that has been twisted and deformed during a process called hydrogenation. During this process, liquid vegetable oil is heated and combined with hydrogen gas. Partially hydrogenating vegetable oils makes them more stable and less likely to spoil, which is very good for food manufacturers—and very bad for you.
No amount of trans fats is healthy. Trans fats contribute to major health problems, from heart disease to cancer.
The main sources are
• Margarine – the solid form
• Baked goods – biscuits, crackers, cakes, muffins, pie crusts, pizza dough, and some breads like hamburger buns
• Fried foods – doughnuts, French fries, fried chicken, chicken nuggets and battered fast foods
• Snack foods – potato chips; sweets; packaged or microwave popcorn
• Solid fats – stick margarine and semi-solid vegetable shortening
• Premixed products – many contain hydrogenated oils
You need to be a trans fat detective and look for the words “hydrogenated oil” on the label ingredients. Many good oils are changed in this fashion to become dangerous.
So with this sort of information what should we do? A suggested rule of thumb is
• Keep total fat intake to 20-35% of calories
• Limit saturated fats to less than 10% of your calories (200 calories for a 2000 calorie diet)
• Limit trans fats to 1% of calories (2 grams per day for a 2000 calorie diet)
What specific things do I do to try and use good fats?
• Use an olive oil based soft spread – not butter or margarine
• Make up my own dressings based around virgin olive oil
• When cooking use a high smoke point / low saturated fat oil
• The best are avocado or rice bran oils – I use rice bran as it is often on special at supermarket
• Eat less red meat and more fish and chicken
• Go for lean cuts of meat
• Bake, broil, or grill instead of frying.
• Remove the skin from chicken and trim as much fat off of meat as possible before cooking.
• Avoid breaded meats and vegetables and deep-fried foods.
• Choose low-fat milk and lower-fat cheeses like edam
An additional point is about olive oil. It is a great product and has some valuable components in addition to being an unsaturated fat. But to get the best from it you need to use the right grade for the right purpose
Virgin or extra Virgin – use this for dressings or any cold use, it has the best flavour and the most extra value components. Don’t cook with it as if over heated can produce some trans fats
Light or very Light – less flavour and other components but higher smoking point and better to cook with (still prefer rice bran or avocado).
So to summarise.
Food is not only essential but also an important pleasure in our life. But we need to try and eat in a healthy manner and eat the less desirable foods only on special occasions and as special treats. It is not the end of the world to have the odd feed of fish and chips or some biscuits or snacks.
Just restrict their intake.

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