The Good, the Bad, the Ugly (Fat)

How to know the difference between good fat and bad fat.

Fat. In many circles, this three-letter word is as bad as any four-letter word in the dictionary, and is said with equal disdain and fear. For people trying to live a healthy lifestyle, fat is everything they’re trying to avoid. The antagonist. The elephant standing in the room that they’re trying to shove through the window. But did you know that all fat is not created equal? That’s right – fat gets a worse rap than it deserves.

Does a Body Good

You may be surprised to learn that just like it needs water and oxygen, your body needs fat. Granted, you don’t want to eat as much fat as you drink and breathe water and air, but a little fat isn’t going to hurt you. In fact, if it weren’t for fat, your body wouldn’t have the energy it needs to stay strong and moving forward each day.

The trick is getting the right kinds of fat. To find this mythical creature, go with foods that aren’t pre-packaged. You should also keep reading for more tips.

The interesting thing is, while we die of diseases of affluence from eating all these fatty meats, our poor brethren in the developing world die of diseases of poverty, because the land is not used now to grow food grain for their families.
– Jeremy Rifkin

What to Avoid

Now that you realize fat isn’t all bad for you, you may want to grab a massive piece of chocolate cake to chase the fatty steak you just finished off. Stop! Doing this isn’t just a bad idea. It’s a horrible idea that could damage your good health for a long time to come. Instead of diving headfirst into the fatty aisles at the grocery store with reckless abandon, be attentive and skeptical. A food may be low in fat, but the fat it contains may be a bad fat.

What kinds of fat are bad? Trans-fats and saturated fats are the most dangerous to your system. When these are eaten in cookies, cakes, French fries, and other products, they raise your total cholesterol level and your level of low-density protein (LDL) cholesterol, also known as “bad” cholesterol. In the process, your risk of heart disease also increases.

Where to Go

Instead of these kinds of fats, look for foods with unsaturated fats. They come in two forms, monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats. While saturated and trans-fats increase your risk for heart disease, these good fats can actually reduce your risk of heart disease. The most powerful of these fats is the polyunsaturated fat known as omega-3 fatty acids, which are found frequently in salmon. Other sources of healthy fat include olive oil, sunflower seeds, nuts, and flax oil.

Regardless of what fats you find yourself eating, you should always keep one rule of thumb close at hand. Keeping your fat consumption to moderate levels is key to staying happy and healthy. Eating too much of anything – even a good thing – can cause you to put on extra pounds, which takes the fun out of eating.

Under the Microscope

Fats are almost everywhere, including some of the foods you and your family may be eating every day. Here are a few items with unnecessarily high levels of fat you’d be better off without.

  • potato chips
  • butter
  • dinner rolls
  • salad dressing
  • buttered popcorn
  • mayonnaise
  • tartar sauce
  • candy bars
  • ice cream

Fortunately, there are low-fat options to many of these delicious delights, and most of them taste pretty good. So keeping healthy and enjoying the flavors you love is easier today than it has ever been!

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