For a while there, fat seemed to be the enemy. During the late 80s and early 90s, “fat free” was a huge buzzword, and the general US population seemed to do whatever it could to stay away from any and all fat.
Saturated VS Unsaturated
Saturated fat, which is found mainly in animal products (meat, dairy, butter and lard), and in a lot of fried and prepackaged foods, is the kind of fat that we should all try to limit. Saturated fatty acids, which make up saturated fat itself, have no double bonds (a “particular kind of chemical link between adjoining molecules”), and are packed tightly with CH2 molecules. Unsaturated fat. which is usually plant-based (examples include vegetable oils, nuts, and avocado), is made up of unsaturated fatty acids, and these acids do have double bonds. pushing CH2 and creating gaps in the chain.
Because saturated fats are packed so tightly together, when they enter the bloodstream, they can clog arteries and increase the amount of “bad” cholesterol in the body. Unsaturated fats don’t clog arteries, but they do raise cholesterol – only it’s the “good” kind (HDL, or high-density-lipoprotein)!
Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, two forms of unsaturated fats, and are usually found in liquid vegetable oils. Oily fish (like tuna and salmon) contain Omega-3 fatty acids — great for joints and the brain — and nuts and seeds typically contain Omega-6 fatty acids — good for regulating hormones. Both Omega-3 and Omega-6 fall into the good fat category as well.
The Mutant Called Trans Fat
Because unsaturated fats are so good for the body, food manufactures tried to cash in by creating a synthetic version. Using a process called hydrogenation, which alters the chemical structure of natural unsaturated fats and makes them last longer, big food companies were able to claim there were no saturated fat in their products. The only problem was, by changing the chemical makeup of unsaturated fat, manufacturers took out all the healthy components, and created a monster called trans fat.
Found in things like fried foods, donuts, prepackaged sweets and even crackers, there’s nothing good about trans fat . It elevates bad cholesterol and decreases good cholesterol, and can directly affect heart health.
Not all fat is created equal. Incorporating more nuts, avocado, olive oil, coconut oil, and fresh fish into your diet will increase the amount of good fat (and good cholesterol) in your body, while lessening the amount of red meat, prepackaged snacks and fried foods, will keep the bad fat — saturated and trans fat — at bay.
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