This article was furnished by the WIFH in Atlanta, Georgia.
Fats have had a bad reputation in the past, but people are starting to realize that we need them to stay healthy. Fats are one of the major nutrients of the human diet. The other two are carbohydrates and proteins.
Before we get down to the details on fats and how they work in the body, you know that fats and oils are one and the same. The only difference is that oils are liquid at room temperature and fats are solid. Now, let’s move on to the nitty-gritty.
Triglycerides: Simply stated, triglycerides are the chemical form of fats in food and in the body. Think of fat as a building and triglycerides as the bricks that give it shape. These “bricks” consist of 3 fatty acids: saturated, Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated (the “tri”), and one glycerol molecule. Thus, the name “tri”-”glyceride”.
Monounsaturated: Monounsaturated fats are heart-healthy because they maintain good HDL cholesterol levels while lowering bad LDL cholesterol levels. Oils that are predominantly monounsaturated include olive, avocado, peanut, sesame, lard and duck fat. Monounsaturated oils are generally considered to be the healthiest overall, but it’s important to note that all three types have distinct advantages and disadvantages.
Poly unsaturated: Due to their unstable chemical structure, polyunsaturated fatty acids expire more quickly, especially after prolonged contact with oxygen, light or heat. Oils that are predominately polyunsaturated include walnut, grapeseed, soy, corn and fish oils. Never keep these oils beyond their expiration date. If cooking with these oils, use low temperatures. Be sure to refrigerate.
Saturated: Saturated fats are the most stable, giving them a long shelf life and the ability to withstand high cooking temperatures. The are primarily found in animal fats and tropical oils.
Animal Fats: In general, animal fats such as butter and cream are predominantly saturated. It is interesting to note that the fatty acid composition of animal fat can vary depending on the diet of the animal.
Trans Fats: The Very Worst Kind: Trans fatty acids are chemically altered, man-made fats found in partially hydrogenated oils. The hydrogenation process, in common use since the early 20th century, injects hydrogen into vegetable fats under high heat pressure. This saturates what was previously an unsaturated fat and results in a chemical configuration that is not found in nature and is very rich in trans fatty acids. Very small amounts of trans fats do occur naturally in some products such as milk, cheese, beef or lamb.
Trans fats are doubly harmful because they lower HDL (good) cholesterol and raise LDL (bad) cholesterol levels, increasing the risk of coronary heart disease. Trans fatty acids have an even worse impact on cholesterol levels than diets high in butter, which contain saturated fats. A 2002 report by the Institute of Medicine concluded that trans fats are not safe to consume in any amount.
The Trans Fat Labeling Law: Effective since January 1, 2006, all products that have a Nutrition Facts Panel must declare the amount of trans fat per serving. This has forced many conventional food manufacturers to reduce or eliminate trans fats from their products. But trans fat still has a significant presence in restaurants and with other food vendors who are not affected by the labeling law. Packaged products that may still contain significant amounts of trans fats include: margarine, shortening, baked goods (pastries, pies, cookies, doughnuts), breakfast cereals, fried foods, crackers and snack foods such as potato chips.
Simply put not all fats are bad and contrary to popular belief they don’t actually make you fat. What packs on the pounds is CALORIES, consuming too many and making the wrong choices when it comes to fats and carbohydrates.
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