By Brie Cadman / www.divinecaroline.com
It used to be that the mere mention of the word fat sent health conscious eaters into retreat mode. Fat was to be avoided at all costs, and the lower the amount one consumed, the better. Yet as health and weight problems rose simultaneously with the proliferation of goods such as fat-free salad dressings, light cookies, and low-fat peanut butter, it’s come to light that fat, the much maligned macromolecule, doesn’t deserve the reputation it’s been dealt.
As it turns out, the percentage of fat in our diet doesn’t dictate weight or health. A 2006 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found almost identical rates of heart attack, stroke, heart disease, and weight control in women who followed a low-fat diet versus those who didn’t. Other studies have backed this up, finding no correlation between heart disease, cancer, or weight and percentage of fat in diet. What they did find, however, was that it’s not the amount of fat, but rather the type of fat a person eats that makes a difference.
That’s because not all fat is created equal. Some fats, like artificially created trans fats, are clearly deleterious for our health. But others are not only better for us, they are absolutely necessary for good health.
So which fats should be included in our diet and which ones should we avoid?
Go with the Good Ones
The real villain when it comes to fat is trans fat, which is made by partially hydrogenating vegetable oils to make them more stable at room temperature. Trans fat raises the bad kind of cholesterol, LDL, and lowers the good kind, HDL. It’s also been linked to inflammation, heart disease, and other chronic diseases. Although trans fat is found naturally in products like cheese and meats, Americans consume most of their trans fat in the form of fried, packaged, and processed foods. It should come as no surprise that French fries, margarine, processed cookies and crackers, and fast food aren’t good for us.