Understanding Saturated Fat For Healthy Eating

You’ve probably hear the terms saturated fat, trans fat, unsaturated fat, polyunsaturated fat, and even monounsaturated fat, and before long you’re confused about which is which, and you wonder which is bad for you and are any included in heathy eating. It might surprise you to learn that fats are actually a necessary part of good health.

The purpose of good fats in our diet is to:

  • disseminate vitamins A, K, D, and E
  • store energy
  • protect vulnerable body parts
  • provide warmth

But there are fats that are unhealthy additions to our diet.

The Difference in Healthy Fats and Unhealthy Fats

Unhealthy fats are usually found in animal food products that stay in their solid state at normal temperatures. They are converted to fat by the liver and will raise your bad cholesterol levels, constrict blood vessel function, and cause inflammation in the body. Examples of unhealthy fats include:

  1. Trans Fats – typically found in most highly processed foods like snack cakes, crackers, and potato chips
  2. Saturated Fats – found in fatty red meats, egg yolks, butter, and whole dairy products

Avoiding saturated fats and replacing them with healthy fats can release good cholesterol, reduce blood pressure, and lower body inflammation. Look for unsaturated fats in fish, raw nuts, and vegetable oils. Replace saturated and trans fats with the healthy fats that include:

  1. Unsaturated fats – also provide the body with valuable Omega-6 and Omega-3 fatty acids that our bodies can not synthesize on their own.
  2. Monounsaturated fats – lower bad cholesterol and raise good cholesterol in our bodies.
  3. Polyunsaturated fats – less healthy of these 3 fats because they do lower both good and bad cholesterol levels. Mostly found in non-meat sources.

How Fat Effects Weight Loss

All fats have calories, so eating them in large quantities (whether good or bad) will eventually lead to weight gain. Many of us read our food labels and see the terms “low saturated fat,” “low cholesterol” or “no trans fats” and automatically think the item is healthy. Don’t make the mistake of thinking the term “low” makes saturated fat healthy. It’s not.

The US Department of Agriculture and Health recommends only 25 to 30% of our daily caloric intake be from fats. Of those fats, no more than 7% should be saturated fats. Cholesterol levels should be below 200 mg/day. If you want to lose weight, your numbers must be less.

To lose weight and change your lifestyle to reflect true healthy eating, eliminating as many saturated fats from your diet as possible is key.

What Healthy Eating Really Means

The bottom line is that real nutrition comes from a balance of healthy fats and low fat foods. Healthy fats do not include saturated fats or trans fats. Healthy eating also comes from being aware of the vitamins and minerals your body needs each day to function at its best and working to incorporate those foods that achieve this into your diet.

Saturated fat foods rarely contain significant quantities of essential vitamins and minerals to justify their caloric intake. Low fat foods like fruits, vegetables, fish, shellfish, whole grain cereals, rices, pastas, some nuts, and seeds give you much more nutrition per calorie. Make label-reading a practice so you are quick to spot and eliminate saturated fats from your diet and aren’t consuming unhealthy calories unknowingly. Recognizing ahead of time what kinds of foods typical contain trans or saturated fats will go a long way to putting you on track for life-long healthy eating.


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