When we think of the word “fat”- We remember back to our parents and grandparents using lard for everything they made or putting a huge slab of butter on bread. Back then, we didn’t think anything of it when we were eating fat, whether it was good or bad for us. We just thought it was part of our diet.
Today, no matter where you look – you see news reports saying eat this fat but don’t eat this fat. We’re always trying to find the lowest fat diet. It almost seems as if we all need to be scientists just to figure out what should we eat. So let’s take a look at what polyunsaturated fat is, why it’s good for us and what should we consume to achieve the full benefits.
So, what is polyunsaturated fat and how does it affect our health? It is found in animal and plant foods, which is known as one of the healthier fats, together with monounsaturated fat. The biggest thing to remember is that we want to add in polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fat, which will be replacing saturated fats, commonly found in red meat, butter, cheese, and ice cream; and trans fat, which are unhealthy fats found in partially hydrogenated oil,that could increase health problems such as risk for heart disease.
When you reduce the red meat and butter intake, substitute them with fish, beans, nuts, and healthy oils rather than refined carbohydrates. That’s why adding polyunsaturated fats into your diet can help lower your bad cholesterol (LDL), which causes your arteries to become blocked or clogged. It can contribute vitamin E to your diet, which is an antioxidant. By adding more of this healthier fat into our diets, it can boost your overall body, mind, and soul, along with your waistline. Now isn’t that a bonus.
This type of fat includes omega-3 and omega-6 fats (EFA’s), which are essential fatty acids that help our brain function and cell growth. We need to supplement these EFA’s through our food since our body does not produce this on its own. They protect our heart because they contain EPA and DHA. They lower the risk of fatal heart attacks and sudden cardiac death caused by electrical problems that occur in the heart.
By consuming fish, it may reduce the risk of stroke too and keep in mind; it contains vitamin D, healthy proteins, selenium, and other nutrients. It is recommended that you consume at least two 3-4oz servings of fish and seafood, including one serving of oily or dark meat fish per week. As for vegetable oils, it is recommended that you consume 5-6 teaspoons per day, which includes oil found in foods.
Lately, all you hear about is coconut oil or palm oils. Are they really better for you? Well, according to the AHA, there is no real known evidence as of now so, they recommend to stick to vegetable oils, because of the overwhelming evidence they are good for the heart.
So, how does the omega-3 and omega-6 fats work to our benefit?
- Lower triglycerides and lowers the risk of having an irregular heartbeat, known as arrhythmia.
- Cuts down the buildup of plaque in our arteries and decreasing our blood pressure
- It can regulate our blood sugar and lower our diabetes risk
- Lower inflammation and contains beneficial phytochemicals from the oil seeds
There are several foods that are recommended as part of the polyunsaturated fat category:
- Fish, including salmon, herring, trout, albacore tuna, anchovy, sardines, bluefish, mussels, halibut, bass, oysters, and mackerel
- Vegetable, Safflower, Corn, Flax, Olive, Canola and Soybean Oil
- Sunflower, poppy, chia and flax seeds
- Eggs and avocado
- Walnuts, soybeans, almonds, pine and Brazil nuts
- Fresh, raw pork sausage, pork, roasted turkey, roasted chicken wings and duck
- Quinoa, toasted wheat germ, raw oat bran, dry chickpeas, millet, tahini and firm tofu
So, what if you don’t care for fish or have a fish allergy? According to the American Heart Association, you may want to supplement with over the counter fish oil capsules. Keep in mind; they are not regulated by the FDA. Most capsules carry about 200-400 mg of EPA plus DHA, which should be sufficient for most people. As always, consult with your doctor on a higher dose requirement. Some capsules leave an aftertaste or cause burping, so it’s best to choose the burp free option when choosing the right fish oil capsule.
Please note: As I always say, all in moderation, because eating too much of this type of fat can lead to weight gain, which contains 9 calories per gram. Carbohydrates and proteins carry half of that amount of calories, so just be aware of your consumption amount.
So, how does this compare to my daily healthy plate regimen? It is recommended to allow no more than 25%-30% of fat in your daily calories, of which should be from the polyunsaturated and monounsaturated groups. Keep in mind, limit the other fats, such as saturated fat to less than 6% of your daily calories.
Should we really have to read every label to see what type fat is in the product? Yes, because as stated, there are good and bad fats, so by knowing what to look for when purchasing the product will only benefit your health in the long run. Of course, keep in mind, that when food manufacturers lower fat, they usually substitute it with carbohydrates from sugar, refined grains, or other starches. These are digested faster in our bodies, which affects our insulin and blood sugar levels. This can result in weight gain and diseases.
As always, consult your health professional on any health concerns or questions.
I hope this article finds you in good health.
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