The Skinny on Fat
I have this ongoing list of FAQ's in my head that people ask me often in regards to health and fitness. It is my goal this summer to post on all of them so here is #1:
Let's get into the biology (and chemistry) of Saturated Fat vs Unsaturated Fat
Did I mention I was a science nerd too?!
Lets start with saturated fat! Saturated fat is solid ("s" for solid) at room temperature (most of the time) and includes things like lard, butter, and cheese and is found mainly in meats such as beef and pork and animal products. It is for the most part supposed to be consumed in small amounts only. Saturated fats raise low density cholesterol levels (LDL, aka bad cholesterol) and get stored as fat in the body and can cause harmful plaque in the arteries. Saturated fat intake should account for less than 7% of your total daily calories. Nutrition labels will have the total grams of saturated fat per serving on them. Please be sure to read your nutrition labels and pay attention to serving size!
Unsaturated fats are fats that are liquid at room temperature such as olive oil, and can also be found in fish, nuts, and seeds. There are two types of unsaturated fats, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated. Both increase high density lipid (HDL, aka good cholesterol) levels. The difference between LDL and HDL is this. LDL is sticky cholesterol that sticks to the lining of your arteries forming plaques. These plaques can build up and eventually block blood flow leading to heart attacks. HDL is sticky cholesterol that sticks to LDL. It binds with LDL and carries away to the kidneys for filtration into waste product.
The moral of the story, while you should keep your total fat intake between 20 and 30 percent of your total daily calories, you want most of those fats to be unsaturated. Try to avoid trans-fats at all costs. For one they raise LDL levels AND lower HDL levels AND there is little regulation out there on how much can be used in restaurants. In January 2006, legislation was passed to require trans-fat amounts in nutrition labels, but if it is less than 1 gram per serving, it can be listed at 0. Your max intake of trans-fat should never go past 2 grams per day. That's how bad they are!
For me its nuts and avocados! Love them! A sneaky problem though is serving size. Read the label to find out how much is too much. For me it is almost always too much! Sorry I just can't stop at 12 walnuts or half an avocado! I'm working on that though!
A great place to find a lot of useful information and tools is at the American Heart Association website.
Take your health seriously and take the time (aka make time) to stay active and plan meals. I know it is easier said than done, but I for one do not plan on being a statistic or a sad story for my kids to tell. What I consider worse is not setting the example for my kids and seeing them suffer in their own health later. No thank you. I am a mom and my kids deserve for me step up in our family's health. I hope you will join me in this. I want your family to be healthy too!
Source for some of the information on fats found at the American Heart Association.