Good and Bad Fats: The Ultimate Guide
Remember when any fat was bad fat? When the only difference between a croissant and a donut was snob appeal? Now science has found that some fats are good fats.
TOP FATS: THE OMEGA-3s
Among the best fats on the planet, omega-3s add years to your life by dramatically reducing the risk of heart attack and stroke. They may also stave off arthritis, depression, and some cancers, and might even tame menstrual cramps, postworkout soreness, and give you clear, soft skin and great hair!
Eat these frequently:
- Fatty fish, such as wild salmon, sardines, herring, and tuna
- Flaxseeds and flaxseed oil
GOOD FATS: THE MONOS
All monounsaturated fats are kind to your heart because they raise good HDL cholesterol and lower bad LDL cholesterol (the kind that clogs arteries). But virgin olive oil, the MVP of monounsaturates, does more. For starters, it contains micronutrients that are needed for hormone and enzyme production. But olive oil also boasts compounds that may fight breast and colon cancer as well as boost the cancer-fighting power of other foods.
Delicious sources are:
- Virgin olive oil (be sure it's virgin; processing destroys nutrients)
- Canola oil
- Peanut and other nut oils
PRETTY GOOD FATS: THE POLYS
Most polyunsaturated fats are heart-friendly, but, with the exception of omega-3s, they don't have the star power of other healthy fats. Also, poly fats contain omega-6s, which are healthy unless you get too many of them -- and most Americans get up to 25 times more omega-6s than they need. Omega-6s should be eaten more sparingly because they can overwhelm the superstar omega-3s. Overall, try to get most of your polyunsaturated fats from omega-3 sources.
Find them in:
- Corn, soybean, safflower, canola, sunflower, and cottonseed oils
- Fatty fish (canned light tuna counts)
LOUSY FATS: THE SATS
Saturated fats are mainly trouble because they raise blood cholesterol to artery-clogging levels. In one study, eating a single slice of carrot cake and drinking a milkshake that were high in sat fat hindered the body's heart-protective functions. Loading up on saturated fats may also harm brain molecules that help form memories, raising the risk of dementia.
Skimp or skip:
- Meats, particularly with visible fat
- Poultry skin, fat, and dark meat
- Whole-milk dairy foods, including butter, full-fat cheeses, ice cream, sour cream
- Most hard margarines (those in stick form)
- Coconut and palm oils
- Lard and shortening
DON'T EVEN THINK ABOUT 'EM: TRANS FATS
These fats are so scary that they're being banned in some cities, and food manufacturers and restaurants are working fast to find substitutes. Trans fats boost bad cholesterol, decrease good cholesterol, gum up arteries, and set off inflammation throughout the body, which can trigger a host of problems, from stroke to diabetes.
Bypass completely: Be suspicious of any fast or processed food that's not labeled trans-fat-free (packaged-food labels must now list trans fats), including:
- All deep-fried foods -- chips, French fries, onion rings, donuts, etc.
- Many fast foods
- Commercial baked goods -- cookies, pies, cakes, rolls, muffins, etc.
Bottom line: Stay away from trans fats the way you'd avoid highways on the day before Thanksgiving. Clog city.
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