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Good fats, bad fats

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

When we’re trying to lose weight and stay healthy, we’re taught to fear the dreaded f-word. We all know that eating too much of certain fats is bad for our waistlines, as well as for our overall health. But not all fats are bad. In fact, our bodies need some types of it to regulate our normal functions. Good fats deliver vitamins A, D, E and K to our body and help us to absorb them properly, so it is important to include small amounts of these in our everyday diet plan. The trick is knowing the difference between varying sorts of fats- and figuring out the best way to balance them.

Good fats: Unsaturated

Unsaturated fats fall into two types- monounsaturated (found in olive oil, avocadoes, seeds, and nuts such as cashews and peanuts) and polyunsaturated (found in vegetable oils, fish, and other types of nuts like walnuts and Brazil nuts). Monounsaturated fats are good for your heart, and so should be included in your diet every now and then- but they are still fattening, so use them only sparingly. Polyunsaturated fats should be included more often, especially if you can consume them in place of saturated fats.

Bad fats: Saturated

A diet high in saturated fat not only adds on the kilos, it can also increase the risk of heart disease and cancer. Foods like butter, cream, lard, meat and meat products, and most deep-fried foods are high in saturated fat, and should be included in your diet only occasionally. Try buying leaner cuts of meat and chopping off visible pieces of fat. You can also try baking, steaming or grilling foods rather than covering them in butter and cream. And you can try replacing saturated fats with unsaturated fats as much as possible.

Worst fats: Trans fat

The worst fats of all are trans fats. These are found in processed foods like cakes, biscuits, chips, and pies. As well as being a major cause of weight gain, trans fats can raise cholesterol levels in the body, which can then lead to heart disease and stroke. Try to limit your intake of fast foods and check the labels of packaged foods for ‘hydrogenated’ fats.

Reducing fat intake

Overall, fats should make up about a third of your total daily calorie intake- and the largest proportion of this should be unsaturated fats. Most of us end up eating much more than this. To cut down on our fat intake, we need to be eating balanced meals prepared from fresh ingredients, and avoiding processed foods as much as possible. Try to eat less dairy and meat, and more fish, fruit and vegetables. You can still create delicious meals with lots of variety and flavour- just try to be more aware of the amount and types of fats you are including in your diet, and remember to replace bad fats with good fats wherever you can.

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