If the word 'fat' on a label makes you run the other way, stop. Some fats are good for you, according to author and registered dietician Elizabeth Somer. Here's how to incorporate the healthy fats into your diet.
Hi. I'm Jennifer Morris for Howdini. So if you think "fat" is a dirty word, think again. Not all fats are created equal. So here to weight the good, the bad, the ugly fats is Elizabeth Summer. She is a registered dietitian and the author of nine popular nutrition books. Hello, Elizabeth.
So how can fats to be healthy? Because we all think bad, fats are bad!
I know! Well, a few years back, all fats were bad. Kind of like one of those soap opera stars. You're either all good or you're all bad. And now we know it's not quite that cut and dry. There are some good fats, and some really bad fats. The bad fats, I think most people understand, are the saturated fats in meats and fatty dairy products. They clog your arteries and are directly related to heart disease, colon cancer, and numerous other conditions. Trans fats that are now getting out of processed foods are also bad fats that cause heart disease.
But the good fats are even better than the bad fats are bad.
That's good news.
The fish oils, the omega-3s, we have just all kinds of research. And I'm sure what we know is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the health benefits. We know that those omega-3s in fish, such as the omega-3 DHA, is important in lowering heart disease, possibly rheumatoid arthritis, certain forms of cancer, boost the immune system. There's limited evidence right now, preliminary evidence, to show that DHA may boost brain function, reducing the risk for dementia, Alzheimer's disease. Boost mood. There's even reduced aggression. I mean, it goes on and on. But we need a significant amount of that omega-3 in order to get those effects. We also know that the fats in olive oil, the mono unsaturated fats in olive oil, nuts, and seeds, are also very healthy and help to reduce the risk for heart disease.
OK. So now where do we find the unhealthy fats? Can you give me a couple of foods right off the top of your head?
OK. Well, it's the saturated fat and the trans fats. And the saturated fats are found in all meats. The leaner the better, but you're still going to get saturated fat. Even in extra-extra-extra lean hamburger, there's still saturated fat in there. There's saturated fat in butter, or whole milk, or cheese. In fact, Americans have cut back on meat, knowing that it's high in saturated fat. But we've more than tripled our intake of cheese, which is even more laden with saturated fat than meat is. So it's really-- choose the low fat or the nonfat versions of cheeses and dairy products to get some of that saturated fat out of the diet.
And is it OK to have a little bit of saturated fat? So should we have no meat? Is anything in moderation OK?
Well, the recommendations are, is to keep the total amount of trans fats and saturated fat to less than 10% of total calories. But keep in mind, both of those fat are not essential nutrients. If you never had another gram of saturated fat in your diet, you would be fine. Your body doesn't need it. And we know that the more you consume, the worse it is for your arteries and so forth.
Now, how can we get the good fats-- we've got the bad fats. How can we get the good fats into our diet?
OK. Well, the recommendation for the omega-3s, in particular that DHA, which is really important, is that we get at least two to three servings of fish every week into the diet, to lower heart disease risk. Or that equates to about 200 to 300 milligrams of DHA.
The problem with fish, though, is that people are concerned about the mercury, the pesticides in it. Pregnant women in particular. So if you're concerned about those contaminant issues, if you're a vegetarian and you don't eat fish, or if you can't afford to eat wild salmon two to three times a week, or just don't like it, then look for foods that are fortified with a DHA called algae-based DHA. It's contaminant-free, it's vegetarian, and it's put into a whole bunch of different foods these days.
Now, is there such a thing as too much good fat?
Yes, you could go overboard. Especially if you are supplementing. So for instance, if you started taking handfuls of fish oil supplements, one of the downsides is that these fish oils can be blood thinners at very high doses. So if you're on Coumadin or Warfarin s or some sort of blood thinning medication, your doctor should know if you're taking large doses of fish oils.
The other oils, like olive oil and those, it's more of a calorie issue. You know, it doesn't matter whether it's lard, butter, or olive oil. They all have nine calories a gram. And with six, almost seven out of ten Americans battling a weight problem, you can't just start drinking olive oil because it's for your heart. Keeping your waistline down is just as important. So you know, just use some common sense.
Thank you. More great advice from Elizabeth Summer. I'm Jennifer Morris for Howdini.
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