Thursday, July 19, 2007

Sorting Fat From Fiction

There’s so much health information on the Web that it’s often difficult to discern fact from fiction. One of my major difficulties when it comes to health is understanding the different kinds of fats. Monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, saturated, trans fats, omega fatty acids, etc. It can be so confusing!

I think the average consumer knows that there are good fats and bad fats but isn’t quite sure which is which. Let’s see if this article from Memphis Commercial Appeal can help sort things out.

The fat facts

Omega-3 fats: Though actually in the polyunsaturated category, generally considered to be in a class by themselves. Work hard at reducing heart disease, cancer, swollen joints, even may help eczema and depression. Found in the company of fish, shellfish, flaxseed, walnuts and canola and liquid soybean oil.
Prime performance: Lowers bad cholesterol, raises good cholesterol.

Mono-unsaturated fats: Long-term experience lowering bad fats and raising good fats in the blood. Also may help manage blood sugar levels. Monos are found in olives, olive oil, canola oil, peanut oil, cashews, almonds, peanuts and avocados.
Prime performance: Lowers bad cholesterol, raises good cholesterol.

Polyunsaturated fats: Although still recognized as a leader in their field for lowering cholesterol levels, demoted several years ago behind omega-3 fats and monos. Chief fat in walnuts, flaxseed, whole grains and vegetable oils, including canola, safflower, soybean and corn oils.
Prime performance: Lowers bad cholesterol, raises good cholesterol.

Saturated fats: Have held the same low-level position for decades. Known to clog arteries and suspected of other dealings affecting heart health. Chief fat in animal foods -- fatty beef, pork, lamb, butter, cream, ice cream and other full-fat dairy products. Acceptable in small doses; should make up only 10 percent of your total staff.
Prime performance: Raises bad cholesterol.

Trans fats: Long-term experience raising artery-clogging bad cholesterol in the blood. Used in many packaged foods -- crackers, cakes, cookies, pastries, cereals, soups and salad dressings. Often goes by the name "partially hydrogenated vegetable oil."
Prime performance: Raises bad cholesterol.

Human resources note: Trans fats are increasingly unwelcome in any business spawning a nationwide movement to create "trans fat-free" frying oils, margarines, cookies, crackers and snack chips.

Note from Emma: You will be hard pressed to find many types of margarine with trans fats in them. Margarine manufacturers have been leading the pack in removing trans fats from their products. Score: one for margarine and zero for trans fats!

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