Oil: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

So we’ve all heard by now how fat is bad and can lead to higher cholesterol, blood pressure and larger waistlines. But if oils and fats are bad, why are avocados high in fat but also good for us? That’s because not all fats and oils are created equal! Instead of simply cutting fats and oils out of our everyday life, we need to learn to make healthier substitutions and choices to get the most benefit out of the good fats. To put things simply, here’s how things break down:

Good Fats

  • Polyunsaturated fats: These are omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, aka essential fatty acids since our bodies don’t produce them, we have to get them from food. They can actually help lower your total cholesterol level.
    • Examples: Soybean oil, corn oil, safflower oil, walnuts, Sunflower sesame  and pumpkin seeds, flaxseed, fatty fish (salmon, tuna, mackerel, herring, trout, sardines), soymilk, tofu
  • Monounsaturated fats: These fats can not only help lower cholesterol and lower your risk for heart disease or stroke but they increase your HDL or good cholesterol. They are typically in liquid form at room temperature and are typically plant based liquid oils.
    • Examples: Olive oil, canola oil, sunflower oil, peanut oil, sesame oil, avocados, olives, nuts, peanut butter

Bad Fats

  • Saturated Fats: Saturated fat increases total cholesterol and LDL or the bad cholesterol. Meat, seafood, and dairy products are all sources of saturated fat. Dietary Guidelines recommend no more than 10% of your daily food intake come from saturated fats.
    • Examples: High-fat cuts of meat (beef, lamb, pork), chicken with the skin, whole-fat dairy products (milk and cream), butter, cheese, ice cream, palm and coconut oil, lard
  • Trans Fats: These are known as hydrogenated oils because they are made with more hydrogen to keep them solid at room temperature. They’re found in many processed and fried foods. A product is “trans fat free” if it contains less than half a gram per serving so watch out for these! If you see the words hydrogenated, partially hydrogenated, or shortening, steer clear of it.
    • Examples: Commercially-baked pastries, cookies, doughnuts, muffins, cakes, pizza dough, packaged snack foods (crackers, microwave popcorn, chips), stick margarine, vegetable shortening, fried foods (French fries, fried chicken, chicken nuggets, breaded fish), Candy bars

Instead of cutting fat out of your diet entirely, try swapping out the unhealthy fats for the better ones. Again, some fat is actually a good thing and does have some benefits. Watch your intake and keep these quick tips in mind:

  • Keep total fat intake to 20-35% of calories
  • Cut out Trans Fats
  • Limit saturated fatsEat omega-3 fats every day
  • Fish, nuts, flax seed and some oils fit into this category
  • Replace mayo with avocado spread they are filled with heart and brain healthy fats and can add variety to a boring sandwich
  • Use olive oil over butter or margarine
  • Use canola or vegetable oil when baking

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