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Good Fats vs Bad Fats Determine Good Health and Bad Health
Good fats vs bad fats are constantly fighting over our health.
We know that not all proteins are created equal when it comes to our health. Similarly, we have learned that there are good and bad carbohydrates. Guess what?
That’s right. There are good fats and bad fats. For the sake of our health, we must also distinguish between good fats and bad fats in our daily diet. The good news is that you can relax. It’s easy.
Simply put, to continue to think that all fats are equal, especially that all fats are bad for us, is now proven to be detrimental to our well being.
Even Health Canada and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration are changing with the times, perhaps influenced by the research and findings of renowned public health organizations such as the Canadian and American Cancer Societies, the Canadian and American Diabetes Associations, the Canadian and American Heart Associations and the Canadian and American Dietetic Associations.
For the longest time, it was recommended that fat consumption be no greater than 30% of total daily calories as a means of preventing disease. For years, this was the fat dietary standard we accepted as beneficial to preventing both disease and weight gain.
This is no longer completely accurate. Limiting fats to 30% of our daily caloric intake is still sound advice. However, just as it has become important to our health to select certain types of proteins and certain types of carbohydrates, there is a new emphasis on eating good fats and avoiding bad fats.
Previously, the 30% of fats as total daily calories did not clearly distinguish between good fats and bad fats. However, several recent studies provide persuasive evidence that the composition of fats we eat is of far more importance to our health.
The Nurses’ Health Study, whereby 80,000 nurses were monitored by the Harvard School of Public Health, found that total fat intake (+/- 30%) was not as directly linked to the onset of cancers or heart disease or weight gain as was the type of fat consumed.
Results showed that nurses who ate more good fats (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated) than bad fats (saturated and trans fats) experienced significantly lower incidences of cancers and heart disease, even if they ate more fats than the 30% of total daily caloric intake recommended.
FATS TAKEN TO HEART
When we look at heart disease, still the number one killer disease, we must also look at our level of blood cholesterol since the two are unavoidably linked. Heart disease occurs when we have elevated blood levels of bad cholesterol, otherwise known as Low-Density Lipoproteins (LDL). Too much LDL in our blood causes a waxy plaque build-up in our coronary arteries, leading to cardiovascular disease, at times in the tragic form of a sudden heart attack or stroke.
Conversely, good cholesterol, or High-Density Lipoproteins (HDL), keeps our coronary arteries free of plaque by carrying cholesterol in blood back to the liver, which prepares it for elimination from our body.
It is now known, beyond question, that bad cholesterol (LDL) is promoted by the consumption of two bad fats. They are:
1. Saturated Fatty Acids (SFAs)
2. Trans Fatty Acids (TFAs)
Good cholesterol (HDL) is promoted by the consumption of three good fats. They are:
1. Monounsaturated Fatty Acids (MUFAs)
2. Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids (PUFAs)
3. Omega 3 Fatty Acids
The same Nurses’ Health Study showed that human subjects who ate mostly Monounsaturated fats, Polyunsaturated fats and Omega 3 fats (good fats), while at the same time limiting Saturated and Trans fats (bad fats), were less than half as likely to experience heart disease as those who ate equal amounts or more bad fats than good fats.
Be forewarned! To continue to devour any and all fats, blind to the harm they bring you, is putting yourself at great risk to heart disease, stroke and many forms of cancer, which would also be reckless since you now know the difference between good fats vs bad fats.
The obvious effects of eating bad fats are weight gain and eventual obesity. To illustrate the point, the above picture demonstrates that while 5 pounds of fat is equal in weight to 5 pounds of muscle, when we add 5 pounds of fat, we look fatter as a result.
This is the first of a three-post series on the effects of dietary fats on our health. Part II will be posted on April 13 and deals with how our choices of fats in foods directly impacts our health.