The skinny on fats: Know the three types

Published 11:09 pm Thursday, September 24, 2015

By David Crocker

With so many folks trying to get in shape these days, there seems to be a lot of talk about diet and nutrition. One of the most popular subjects that comes up is fats. With this also comes much confusion. I’m going to try and help you with that today.


Three common fats in our diets are polyunsaturated, monounsaturated and saturated.


Polyunsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature and when refrigerated. They are good for your heart because they not only help lower LDL (bad) cholesterol levels, they help maintain HDL (good) cholesterol levels. These fats can also lower triglyceride (fat in the blood) levels and even lower blood pressure.


Polyunsaturated fats do provide inflammation fighting omega 3 fatty acids, which are great for you, but they also contain omega 6 fatty acids, which can cause inflammation if taken in overabundance. I recommend getting no more than 10 percent of total daily calories from polyunsaturated fats.


Rich sources of these fats are safflower, sunflower and fish oils. In fact, fish oil has to be polyunsaturated or cold-water fish blood couldn’t flow.


Monounsaturated fats, also known as oleic acids, are liquid at room temperatures and semi-solid when refrigerated. These facts are good for you because they too, help reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol levels, but they also lower rick of heart disease and stroke, lower risk for breast cancer, lessen soreness and stiffness from arthritis, and can actually assist weight loss and reduce belly fat.


Rich sources of these fats are avocado, sunflower, safflower, peanut and olive oils. I recommend monounsaturated fats make up 20 percent of total daily calories.


Saturated fats are solid at both room and refrigerated temperatures. These come from foods like beef, butter, lamb, cheese, veal and poultry fat. Saturated fat is the main dietary cause of high blood cholesterol. I recommend they make up no more than six percent of total daily calories.


Even though saturated fats are bad for you, there is one fat even worse: trans fats. I recommend you get none of these. Trans fats can be natural, or man made. Small amounts occur naturally in beef and in dairy foods. Man-made trans fats occur when hydrogen gas reacts with oils. These are called hydrogenated oils. When hydrogen and pressure are added to oils, the result is a stiffer fat, much like canned shortening.


These “stiff” fats can, over time, clog the arteries that feed your heart and brain, leading to a heart attack, or stroke. Trans fats can be found in fast foods, cookies, potato chips, margarine, crackers, and microwave popcorn. The reason manufacturers use hydrogenated oils, is that they are inexpensive to manufacture, and they give food a much longer shelf life. One negative affect of trans fats is that not only do they raise total blood cholesterol levels, they also deplete good cholesterol (HDL) levels, which help protect against heart disease. In fact, according to a comprehensive Nurse’s Health Study, the largest investigation of women and chronic disease, found that trans fats doubled the risk of heart disease in women.


My advice is to be a smart shopper. Read the nutrition facts panel on the foods you buy. It will have a list of the amounts and types of fat. Try to limit saturated fats in your diet. Use oils like safflower, sunflower and olive oils. Also, add more fruits, vegetables, chicken and beans to your diet. Remember that commercial oils and shortenings are made by hydrogenation and contain saturated and trans fats. For this reason I suggest you limit the times you eat out, especially at fast food restaurants. I recommend that you cook more of your meals. This way you can better control what goes into your dishes. Using these tips will help you clean that diet up.


Diet or exercise question? Email me at David Crocker of Landrum has been a nutritionist and master personal trainer for 29 years. He served as strength director of the Spartanburg Y.M.C.A., head strength coach for the USC Spartanburg baseball team, S.C. state champion girl’s gymnastic team and the Converse College equestrian team. He served as head trainer for L.H. Fields modeling agency, and taught for four semesters at USC Union. David was also a regular guest of the Pam Stone radio show.