Diet and nutrition
All fats are NOT created equal
More articles on fats
All fats are NOT created equal
Whereas it used to be that dieters were advised to avoid all fat, we
are just starting to learn about the differences in fats and how some fats
are actually good for your body.
We've heard about saturated fats, unsaturated fats, and lately
there's been a lot of talk about trans fats, but the messages
can be confusing. It's time to learn what all these fats mean
and realize that all fats are not created equal.
The human body needs some fat in the diet for
healthy functioning. Not only do we draw energy from our fat stores, but
fat also cushions our organs and insulates us from the elements. Every cell
in our body needs fat to build and maintain its outer membrane or cellular
covering. And, of course, fat makes food satisfying and filling. The key to
a healthy body is to choose our fat sources wisely.
First, let's take a look at saturated fats and unsaturated fats and understand
In a nutshell, saturated fat is hard at room temperature—picture
the ribbons of fat in bacon—while unsaturated fat
is soft or liquid at room temperature—we often refer to
unsaturated fat as "oil".
If we looked at fat chemically, we'd see that all fats are made up of
long strings of carbon atoms with hydrogen and oxygen atoms attached to
the sides. Unsaturated fats have one or more positions open for the body
to attach its own hydrogen atoms to during the digestive process. Saturated
fats, on the other hand, are already "saturated" with hydrogen, making them
harder for the body to break down and use efficiently.
Saturated fat is pretty easy to identify when you remember that it's a solid
at room temperature. It's found in animal and dairy products as well as in
many processed foods. Butter, lard and cheese are all examples of saturated
fats. Saturated fat is high in cholesterol
and has been associated with heart disease and
stroke as well as
high blood pressure and
cancer. The best thing we can do for our own
health is to reduce the amount of saturated fat in our diet.
Unsaturated fats fall into two categories: monounsaturated and
polyunsaturated. Monounsaturated fats have one position
open for that digestive hydrogen atom to attach to and do the
work of digestion. Olive oil is a common source of unsaturated
fat. Avocados are another. So even though that avocado may be
high in fat, it is monounsaturated fat and our bodies can process
and use it efficiently.
Polyunsaturated fats have more than one position available
for those hydrogen atoms. These are the most desirable types of
fat. So desirably, in fact, that polyunsaturated fats are often
referred to as "essential fatty acids." Essential fatty acids
promote healthy skin and hair. They support proper thyroid and
adrenal activity and thus bolster immunity, normal growth processes,
Essential fatty acids promote healthy blood, clean arteries, and strong
nerves; they are crucial in the transport and breakdown of cholesterol. In
many ways, polyunsaturated fats are the antithesis of saturated fats—they
are truly essential.
Since the human body does not manufacture its own essential fatty acids,
we must get them through our diets. The polyunsaturated fat of Omega 6 is
found in seeds and nuts, or their oils, while Omega 3 polyunsaturated fats
appear in fish, seafood, flaxseed oil, and to a small amount in green leafy
vegetables. Current dietary guidelines suggest 2 to 3 servings of fish each
week to ensure the body an adequate supply of Omega 3 fatty acids, though if
you have compromised health you may want to supplement with higher levels of
Trans fats, or "partially hydrogenated oils", are entirely different.
These are industrially synthesized fats designed to increase the
shelf-life of processed foods; make an oil more solid, provide
longer fry-life for cooking oils; and create a certain kind of
texture in store-bought baked foods. The problem with trans fats
is that they harden arteries and cause major clogs, cause insulin
resistance and contribute to Type
2 diabetes, and can contribute to other serious health problems.
The goal should be to eliminate all trans-fats from your diet:
in many ways this is the single best move you can make for your
So, in review, there are four kinds of fats: the good fats—monounsaturated
and polyunsaturated oils found in fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds; the
fats to eat in moderation—saturated fats found in animal products; and the
really bad fats to avoid—partially hydrogenated oils or trans-fats.
It is popular to demonize all fat in our culture, but the smart thing to do
when planning out meals is to choose our fat sources wisely and remember that
all fats are NOT created equal.
Here is a recipe that is high in the good fats with creamy avocado and
sesame oil contributing monounsaturated fats and salmon with its Omega 3
polyunsaturated fatty acids. It will fill you up without clogging your arteries!
1 Tbsp. sesame oil, divided
1 cup jasmine rice, rinsed
1 cup water or broth
1/2-3/4 lb. salmon fillet or steak
2 carrots, cut into julienne strips
2 Tbsp. soy sauce
1 tsp. rice wine vinegar
1/8 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. ginger, freshly grated
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp. sesame seeds
1 lemon, squeezed or 1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1/4 head purple cabbage, shredded
1 avocado, peeled, pitted, & sliced
Preheat oven to 450°F. Coat the inside of a 2-quart cast iron Dutch
oven and lid with 1 tsp. sesame oil or spray with canola oil.
Rinse rice in strainer under cold water until water runs clear. Place
in pot and add the water or broth. Rinse salmon and place in pot (it is
okay if it?s slightly submerged in water). Scrub carrots and slice julienne
style. Sprinkle over salmon.
In a small bowl, mix together soy sauce, vinegar, 1/2 tsp. sesame oil,
sugar, ginger, garlic, red pepper flakes, sesame seeds, and lemon juice.
Stir until sugar is dissolved. Pour 1/2 of the mixture over the carrots.
Layer in cabbage shreds and any other vegetables and top with avocado slices.
Pour the rest of the mixture over all.
Cover and bake for 45 minutes, or until the aroma wafts from the oven and
the rice is soft.
The water used for the rice will completely absorb during cooking. If your rice
is older and dry, or your climate is very dry, add an extra 2 Tbsp. of water.
More articles on fats
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The skinny on fats
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Separating Fat from Fiction: Fat is No Foe
Saturated fat is the Rodney Dangerfield of the fat world. Not only do saturated fats not get any respect, they've been maligned by the health community for decades. The Food and Drug Administration put one type of saturated fat—trans fat—front and center earlier this year by requiring that packaged foods carry the amount of these manmade partially or fully hydrogenated oils on their labels. While this practice has brought to light that trans fats are bad for your health, it also left consumers believing there was no room for any saturated fat on their plates.
Health Quick Tip : Recognize the "bad" fats on food labels
Artery-clogging trans fat is showing up in foods where we least expect it — and in startling quantities. The good news is that by the end of 2005, all packaged foods sold in Canada will be required to list the exact amount of "trans fat" in the Nutrition Facts box, alongside the percentage of the recommended daily value, which is zero for trans fat.
You Asked : How do I avoid trans fats?
Trans fats, or hydrogenated vegetable oils, have come under fire recently for silently contributing to heart disease. It is a fat infused into many processed and packaged foods to preserve shelf life, appearing in chips and snacks, crackers, cookies, baking mixes, and more. Here are the answers to most frequently asked questions on trans fat.
Government task force takes aim at trans fat
Health Canada alongside the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada have set up a task force to examine the best ways of reducing trans fats from all food sources. In the meantime, many consumers, parents and homemakers have taken this initiative themselves.
Top ten ways to get omega-3 in your day
Making healthy choices just got easier thanks to new omega-3 products in the dairy case - milk, yogourt, margarine and cheese. To enjoy the health benefits of this essential nutrient, just make a switch from the regular dairy products you already enjoy at breakfast, lunch or snack time to delicious omega-3 enriched dairy products.
Healthy foods can be tasty and convenient
Eating right and maintaining a healthy lifestyle is a goal for many of us. In fact, in a recent Ipsos-Reid survey, 46 per cent of Canadians said they want to make the switch to healthier food options in the next six months. However, most Canadians are not getting enough essential nutrients in their diet, including omega-3. So where do we start? Try the dairy case, where new omega-3 food options are making it tastier and easier than ever before to enjoy the health benefits of this essential nutrient.
Nutrition News: What do 'fatty acids' do for me?
If you have taken personal charge of your health, you know that there are good fats and bad fats. Bad fats are those that have been chemically altered through processing. Bad fats include hydrogenated oils and trans fatty acids. They are useless to the body and can eventually lead to disease.