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Good and bad fat? Characteristics, foods containing them, pros and cons…

One of the key ways to feel good and look better is by following a healthy diet which not only takes off the kilos, but also ensures your body is better regulated. Does that mean removing fat from your diet? The specialists are categorical in their answer: no. In fact, fats are essential for maintaining good health, and that’s why part of our diet is based on them. They need to provide between 30% and 35% of your total daily calories.

However, not all fats are the same nor do they contribute to our body in the same way. While some are entirely essential and can help us achieve our ideal weight, others are completely dispensable because they do not benefit us in any form. And while some are great assistants in regulating cholesterol levels and preventing diseases such as heart disease or diabetes, others have exactly the opposite effect.

That’s why the first step to losing weight on holiday and feeling in perfect health is by selecting the type of fat to be included in your diet. Today, thanks to the PREDIMED study we know that following a Mediterranean diet reduces the risk of cardiovascular diseases by up to 30%. And all the fats found in it are precisely those “good” fats. It is all about tipping the scales in favour of these healthy fats, so that healthy food triumphs in the battle against fast food. You just have to take the differences between some fats and others into account.

 

Good fats

Among the fatty acids there are some of special importance, such as oleic acid, found in olive oil and avocado, linoleic acid, present in many oils, eggs and nuts, and linolenic acid, found in chia seeds or plants such as borage, as well as in nuts and blue fish. These last two acids are referred to as essential and are vital for the synthesis of molecules that regulate many of our body’s functions.

To be able to distinguish between different types of fats, specialists refer to them as unsaturated fats, saturated fats and trans fats or acids. Unsaturated fats are the most beneficial for our health. Among other reasons because they play a protective role against LDL cholesterol, the so-called bad cholesterol.

Unsaturated fats include monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Monounsaturated fats are found in olive oil, avocado and in many nuts, and are rich in omega 9 fatty acids. Polyunsaturated fatty acids are basically made up of omega-3 and 6 fatty acids, which not only reduce levels of “bad” cholesterol but can also help increase “good” or HDL cholesterol. However, while omega-6 fatty acids reduce “bad” cholesterol levels more easily than omega-3s, the latter, in turn, are more potent than omega-6s in reducing triglycerides. Polyunsaturated fats are found in many so-called blue fish (mackerel, tuna, salmon, sardines, etc.), in some marine crustaceans, in nuts and in oils such as corn oil and sunflower oil.

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Bad fats

Which fats then should we mostly keep at bay, so our health is not harmed and so it is easier for us to maintain our ideal weight? Experts advise measuring the number of saturated fats in which each carbon atom binds to several hydrogen atoms wisely. They differ from the others in that they solidify at room temperature. The effect from this, if they are consumed in large enough quantities, is an almost automatic increase in cholesterol and triglycerides levels in the blood, and the scales also note it.

Saturated fats from animal products, of which the majority are, are found in red meat, sausages, milk and other dairy products such as cheese, cream or butter, as well as in seafood and some food products of plant origin, such as coconut oil, palm oil or peanuts. According to experts, their consumption should be restricted to a maximum of 25% of the daily calories obtained from fat.

Those that should not even come close to that percentage and ideally should be removed entirely from our diet, or at least curb their consumption significantly, are hydrogenated or trans fats, good health’s greatest enemy. These are industrially produced fats made from various hydrogenated oils. They augment “bad” (LDL) cholesterol and triglycerides, which is why the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends our average consumption is less than 1% of our total daily dietary energy intake. Hence, we should, as much as possible, avoid baked goods such as biscuits, pastries and other bakery products, precooked foods, snacks and fried foods for example chips, corn chips, and other snacks, because along with ice cream, custard, and milkshakes, these are the food types that contain the most trans-fat.

 

If you would like to know more about what a healthy diet entails, feel free to take our test: 

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