A Guide To Fats

A Guide To Fats

Fat has a bad rep, but the truth is we need it in our diet.

Without fat, we can't absorb crucial, fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K. Fat cushions our organs and helps our bodies use protein and carbohydrates more efficiently. It's also a source of energy, and allows the proper function of cells and the nervous system.

Fats' villainous reputation was born with the rise of cheap, accessible foods laced with trans fats and saturated fats. Consuming these fats can increase your risk of obesity and heart disease.

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By choosing healthy fats such as monounsaturated fats found in avocados and olives, we can actually protect our heart. The key is to focus your attention on good fats and steer clear of bad fats.

Of course, this is not to say that you should spend your entire day noshing on salmon, nuts and olive oil. A healthy fat intake for adults is 20 to 35 per cent total calories. Women need about 40-60 grams of fat per day, and men need about 60-90 grams of fat per day.

Fats can be categorized by saturated or unsaturated, but let's break it down further:


Monounsaturated Fats

Monounsaturated fats decrease total blood cholesterol by lowering your LDL (bad) cholesterol. Bonus: they also maintain your HDL (good) cholesterol and are the most heart-friendly fats you can eat. Up to 20 per cent of your daily fat intake should be monounsaturated fats.

Sources: Avocado, most nuts (almonds, cashews, pistachios) olives, sesame and pumpkin seeds, tahini paste.

Polyunsaturated Fats

Polyunsaturated fats are broken down by Omega-6 and Omega-3 essential fatty acids. They help lower LDL (bad) cholesterol but there is evidence that too much will lower your HDL (good cholesterol). Up to 10 per cent of your daily fat intake should be polyunsaturated fats.

Sources: Walnuts, salmon, flax, hemp seeds, sardines

Omega-3 and Omega-6

For optimal health, it's important to keep your Omega-6 to Omega-3 ratio at 5:1 or less (lower is better). The typical North American diet is rich in Omega-6 fatty acids, so our ratio tends to be more around 17:1. This increases our risk of inflammatory diseases such as diabetes, arthritis and heart disease.

Sources of Omega-6: Many cooking oils (corn, soy, sunflower), mayonnaise

Sources of Omega-3: Salmon, herring, walnuts, flax, algae


Saturated Fats

Saturated fats increase LDL (bad) cholesterol. It's generally advised to steer clear of saturated fats, but our body actually requires it. For example, saturated fat helps the absorption of calcium! Keep your intake low (around five to seven per cent), and make smart choices, such as virgin coconut oil or ghee. Avoid highly processed and hydrogenated oils.

Sources: Butter, cheese, whole milk, beef, pork

Trans fats

Trans fats not only raise LDL (bad) cholesterol, they also lower HDL (good) cholesterol, which increases the risk of heart disease. Most trans fats available to us are in the form of hydrogenated oils, which are more harmful than naturally-occurring oils. Trans fats are used to extend the shelf life of processed foods like cookies, french fries and donuts. Any item that contains "hydrogenated oil" or "partially hydrogenated oil" likely contains trans fats.

Sources: Snack foods like cookies, chips, crackers. But manufacturers are required to display the amount of trans fats on labels, so check to make sure!

SIDE NOTE: A few recent studies suggest cooking at home and sharing family meals help reduce fat, salt and sugar in our diets while preventing obesity and positively impacting our mental health.

Not bad reasons to try a few new healthy recipes at home today!

Corn and Salmon Chowder

Brown Rice Pudding With Soy Milk and Dried Blueberries

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