This Bad Fat Is Hiding In All Your Favorite Foods

Don’t worry, this nutritionist has healthy fat alternatives. 

Fat is essential. It pads our internal organs, helps our hormone systems run smoothly, provides us with energy, assists in the absorption of vitamins from other foods and most importantly, helps us maintain glossy, shiny hair and keeps our skin glowing.

But not all fats are created equal. Here to explain the differences, HUM Nutritionist, Carrie Gabriel, RDN.

First, which fats should we avoid?

Avoid fats that do not occur naturally, such as artificial trans fats. These are manufactured fats, made by adding hydrogen to liquid vegetable oils in an industrial process. Trans fats are linked to an increase in heart disease and are known to harden arteries. They also cause fat to gather in the midsection and have been known to block absorption of essential fatty acids, which are known to help boost healthy skin. (Basically, trans fats are your enemy.)

Be wary of processed foods, where most trans fats are found. Think fried food, fast food and baked goods such as doughnuts, pastries, pizza, cakes, pie crust, cookies, and crackers. (Is it just us, or are those all the best things?) It’s also common in stick margarines and other spreads.

Luckily, this type of fat has been stripped out of many foods recently – but be careful. Read labels on packaged goods, because some companies might still include a minuscule amount of trans fat, say .5g in a serving.  If you don’t watch your servings this can add up quick.

What’s the difference between saturated and unsaturated fats?

Saturated Fats

These are a type of fat that consists of a single bond between molecules in a fatty acid chain. This type of fat is solid at room temperature and has a higher melting point compared to unsaturated fats. Ideally, saturated fats should not consist of more than 10% of a person’s recommended daily intake. Consuming too many saturated fats can increase a person’s bad cholesterol (Low Density Lipoprotein or LDL) and potentially increase risks for cardiovascular disease and/or heart attacks and strokes.

Food sources for these types of fats include fried foods, many packaged goods with refined sugars, margarine, cheese, whole milk, butter and coconut oil, to name a few.

Unsaturated Fats

These fats have double bonds between molecules in a fatty acid chain. A fatty acid chain is monounsaturated if it contains one double bond, and polyunsaturated if it contains more than one double bond. Ideally, this type of fat accounts for no more than 30% of a person’s daily caloric intake. These types of fat are thought to reduce bad cholesterol (LDL) and help to increase good cholesterol (High Density Lipoprotein or HDL). They do this by helping to move the bad cholesterol to the liver where it can be metabolized. Oils rich in unsaturated fats also provide Vitamin E, which is great for maintaining healthy skin. We encourage eating monounsaturated (one double bond) and polyunsaturated (more than one double bond) fats for these reasons.

Food sources for monounsaturated fats include olive oil, avocados and other plant and nut based oils. Food sources for polyunsaturated fats include salmon, sardines, mackerel, flax and hemp, to name a few.

What are the best fats to cook with?

For cooking, avocado, almond and grapeseed oils are ideal. Why? Because these oils can withstand high cooking temperatures. Avocado oil in particular has a high smoke point (520°F!!!) and a very mild flavor that makes it ideal for grilling, baking and frying. Be sure to store it in a cool, dry and dark place to prevent it from oxidization.

Almond oil is best for salad dressing and low heat baking if it is unrefined. It also has a very mild flavor so it doesn’t overpower any dishes. If it is refined, it can be used for higher heat cooking, although, ideally no more than 420°F.

Grapeseed oil is both heart healthy and has a high smoke point (485°F). It also does not have any overbearing taste and can be used as a dressing, or for stir-frying and high heat sautéing. Grapeseed oil also contains antioxidants and Vitamin E and may help to increase HDL cholesterol levels.

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