Fat is a Friend

For years Fat has been shunned from America’s kitchens and labeled as a menace to society.  Luckily, the research is out:  Fat is, in fact, a friend.  Be wary, though, not all fat is created equal.  Below are a few questions to ask when choosing which fats to include in your diet:

Does is contain trans fatty acids (TFAs)? 

It shouldn’t!  If the ingredient list contains the word “partially hydrogenated” it usually means TFAs are involved.  Many deep-fried foods and packaged baked goods contain TFAs.  Margarine is another contender.  Stay away!  TFA have been shown to raise LDL (lousy) cholesterol and lower HDL (healthy) cholesterol. 

Is it a saturated or unsaturated fat? 

Saturated fat, derived from animal products and some plants, raises LDL cholesterol which can put you at increased risk for heart disease.  If it’s solid at room temperature it’s most likely saturated.  Unsaturated fat, however, is derived from plants and is liquid at room temperature.  Studies show that replacing saturated fat with unsaturated fat (without lowering total fat consumption) helps lower bad cholesterol and harmful triglycerides. 

What type of unsaturated fat is it? 

There are two branches of unsaturated fat:  monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) and polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs).  Both of these fatty acid are essential nutrients for the body.  MUFAs refers to vegetable oils.  There is no general consensus for which type is best, but olive oil and canola oil seem to top the list.  PUFAs, on the other hand, have been studied extensively and have shown to lower risk for heart disease. 

Is an n-6 or n-3 PUFA? 

N-6 fatty acids are found in oils like safflower and corn.  The benefits of n-6 fatty acids are uncertain.  In contrast, people who consume high amounts of n-3 fatty acids have shown reduced rates of heart disease and other health benefits.  This makes n-3 fatty acids the healthiest fat winner.  Top contenders include walnuts, flaxseed, fatty-fish and soy beans.

It you want to be healthy, you cannot restrict fat.  In fact, 10% of calories should come from unsaturated fat (mostly n-3 fatty acids).  Replacing saturated fat with unsaturated fat is a excellent way to lower health risks.  The Standard American Diet contains minimal healthy fats, so we’ve made a handy chart for referencing optimal fats to ingest:

Monounsaturated Fat (MUFA)

Polyunsaturated Fat (PUFA)

Olive Oil

Soybean Oil

Canola Oil

Corn Oil

Sunflower Oil

Safflower Oil

Peanut Oil


Sesame Oil



Fatty Fish+ (salmon, tuna, mackerel, herring, trout, sardines)

Almonds, Macadamias, Hazelnuts, Pecans, Cashews

Soy Beans/Tofu+

(+) Foods containing high levels of n-3 fatty acids (AKA the best choices)

You can view more information on the excellent Nutritional Counseling services provided at Alliance Homecare here.


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