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Making Sense of Dietary Fats

The way of old-age wisdom is changing when it comes to our beliefs of what sets apart the good fats from the bad fats.

Not long ago, diet trends were scaring us away from eating fat and the general recommendation was to avoid them. Eat low-fat yogurt and low-fat cheese and drink low-fat milk. Eat margarine and not butter. Use this, not that. Because we choose to fixate on what the calories are going to do to our waistline, we often forget about the impact that dietary fats can have on our health and by having a better understanding of fat quality and the different sources of fat, you may just be able to reap the benefits like you never have before.

While all fats have calories, we still follow the trend that unsaturated fatty acids are good, while trans fatty acids are bad. This leaves us with saturated fatty acids and where they stand in recent research. Well, the paradigm is shifting. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines recommended limiting saturated fats up to 10 percent of calories and replacing them with unsaturated fats BUT recent findings in 2013 from the American Heart Association/American College of Cardiology Lifestyle Management released guidelines that further decreased saturated fat calories to a slim 5-6% of daily calorie intake due to their “impact on CVD.” So, what does this mean?

Well, saturated fats are not the only culprit for increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Other risk factors include lifestyle factors such as being overweight or obese, increased waist circumference and other dietary lipids. Also, the current dietary guidelines to limit saturated fat do not account for the food source: plant vs. animal fats. While most of us have followed the guidelines to limit our fat intakes, we have replaced them with refined carbohydrates and sugars. Thus, impacting our waist line and therefore adding to the growing list of risk factors that can later on lead to CVD. See where I am going with this?

Grouping all saturated fats together isn’t a useful practice. What you choose to consume to replace these fats counts a whole lot more.

Other fats that are getting attention in the media today as Omega-3 fatty acids and trans fats. Omega-3’s have been shown to have significant positive cardiovascular effects. They are also anti-inflammatory and promote brain health. The American Psychiatric Association has even made a link between low omega-3 levels and depression. Then there is the trans fats. A stronger consensus from the American Heart Association recommends limiting trans fat from artificial sources to 1 percent because they can lower HDL and increase LDL and the Food and Drug Administration proposed eliminating artificial trans fats from being “generally safe.”

The bottom line is, concentrating on the kind of fats you are eating and how much of them is what matter. Eating certain fats is good for our waistline, our heart, our brain and basically just our overall health. Drink a small amount of real organic milk or eat some avocado and some salmon. These fats are the kinds we should be focusing on. The good natural ones!

Information gathered from Food & Nutrition magazine.

Here are some links below about dietary fats:

Ask Well: Triglycerides and Heart Disease
The Questionable Link Between Saturated Fat and Heart Disease

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