Although fats and oils are not considered a food group, they are essential for good nutrition and must be included in a healthy diet. Fats provide us with a great source of energy, help absorb nutrients, and maintain a healthy body and brain.
Fats and oils are not all the same and can be divided into Unsaturated and Saturated fats.
There are 2 types of unsaturated fats - monounsaturated and polyunsaturated. They are referred to as good fats because they promote good health by lowering LDL (bad) cholesterol and raising HDL (good) cholesterol. They also strengthen the immune system, prevent cancer, diabetes, reduce inflammatory conditions such as arthritis, and improve cardiovascular health.
Foods that are naturally high in these unsaturated fats are walnuts, almonds, and other nuts, avocados, olives and fish. Unsaturated oils include olive oil, macadamia nut oil, and coconut oil.
Omega-3 is a polyunsaturated fat that is especially good for women's body and brain function.
The best source of omega-3 fatty acids are cold water fish, namely salmon, tuna, sardines, herring, and mackerel.
Saturated fats are solid at room temperature. Solid fats tend to raise LDL cholesterol levels in the blood. This is the bad type of cholesterol, which increases the risk of heart disease and other chronic conditions. Most saturated fats are manmade, for example partially hydrogenated vegetable oil and transfatty acid (trans-fats).
Trans-fats are liquid fats that have been chemically processed to turn them into solid fats. This is a process that keeps the fats from spoiling, thus extending the shelf life of any food that contains them. They not only raise LDL (bad) cholesterol, but also lower HDL (good) cholesterol levels. In addition to the implications of cholesterol on the heart, trans-fats have been linked with various types of cancers, diabetes, obesity, and other chronic diseases. Trans-fat content must be listed on food labels so read food packaging and avoid these completely.
Trans fats are found in packaged baked goods, fried fast foods, margarine, microwave popcorn, candy bars and other processed foods.
Animal fats are also saturated fats, but are essential for development and good health and only become bad fats when consumed in excess. Avoid excess by eating lean cuts of meat, eat more fish and less meat, remove skin from poultry, and use low-fat or non-fat dairy products.
Coconut oil is a saturated fat, but doesn't act like one. In fact, it is a truly remarkable oil that many call the Healthiest Oil on Earth. Just a few of its many benefits are:
Be sure to use only virgin coconut oil, preferably, organic. You can find more information on the many benefits of coconut oil and more at Coconut Oil Central.
Fats and oils must be included as part of a healthy diet plan . It is recommended that women in their 50's, who are not active, eat no more that 25% of their daily calories in fats and oils (of which no more than 10% be from saturated and trans fats). For a 1600 calorie diet this equals about 11 teaspoons. Adjust your intake depending on your age, height, weight, and physical activity.
1 tsp fat = 4 grams of fat
1 gram fat = 9 calories
1 tsp fat = 36 calories
Below are some foods and their fat content to help you become more aware of the fats you may be consuming.
*It is always preferable to eat unsaturated fats, especially those rich in omega-3 fatty acids.
Try this really simple, delicious avocado recipe below.