Fat: The good, the bad and the ugly

Not all fats are created equal. Some are actually good for you. Here’s which ones to enjoy and to avoid.

Not all fats are created equal. For years health experts have warned against consuming too much fat; however, some fats have gotten a bad rap. In fact, certain fats are actually good for you.

Hope Pitman, dietitian, says understanding the difference between “good,” “bad” and “ugly” fats is key to cooking up a healthy diet.

Good fats are unsaturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, which actually have many health benefits. These fats reduce your risk for heart disease, lower total cholesterol and LDL (bad) cholesterol while increasing HDL (good) cholesterol. They also help to increase cell health, brain function and the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K.

Good fats are found in plant-based oils, such as olive oil, grapeseed oil and canola oil, as well as nuts, seeds and avocados.

Bad fats are saturated fats and can clog arteries, increase cholesterol and put you at higher risk for heart disease. But they may not necessarily live up to their “bad” name. When kept to less than 10 percent of your total calories in a day, saturated fats can have health benefits.

Saturated fat is found in red meat, eggs and dairy products. They provide a good source for protein and essential nutrients, like calcium.

What are the ugly fats? Trans fats, especially partially hydrogenated fats. They are the biggest culprits in increasing your risk for heart disease, obesity and diabetes.

Trans fats are found in processed foods, packaged snack foods and margarine. Everyone should avoid these types of fats except on very rare occasion.

Ensuring you consume a well-balanced diet that includes good fats takes practice. Pitman recommends always reading food labels and choosing lean meats, such as turkey, chicken or fish, and low-fat dairy products.

She also cautions against replacing fats with carbohydrates — a symptom of fat-free diet fads.

“This will put us at risk for a whole other set of health problems, such as high triglycerides and diabetes,” Pitman said. “Eat plenty of good fats to receive the great health benefits they provide.”

Think you could use some help with managing your weight? Start down the road to better health by taking a free online health risk assessment.

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