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Fat and Oil: the good, the bad, and the unhealthy
common nutritional wisdom proclaimed that fat and oil were bad, bad,
bad. In recent years, nutritionists and doctors have determined that not
all fat is bad; in fact, some of it is not only good for you, but
Trans fat is is the worst kind of fat - the one that lowers HDL (good
cholesterol) levels, raises LDL (bad cholesterol) levels, and ultimately
clogs your arteries because there is no way for your body to break it
down. Disturbingly, the trans fat content of food does
not even show up on nutritional labels in the US yet. Food companies are
required to list trans fat content since 2006, though you can also determine how much there is on labels that spell out fat content by adding
the amounts given for saturated, polyunsaturated, and monounsaturated
together, then subtracting that from the total fat grams - the difference
is the trans fat content. Trans fats are found in margarine and
shortening and products made with these, particularly fried foods and
those containing partially hydrogenated oil. A small amount of trans fat
is found naturally in meat and dairy.
Saturated fat raises levels of both HDL and LDL; the overall effect
is unhealthy. Saturated fat is high in butter, lard, seafood, and certain
kinds of oil (coconut, palm, and palm-kernel). Saturated fats from
plants are much healthier than those from animals.
Polyunsaturated fat also raises both HDL and LDL and is a much better alternative than saturated and trans fats. Polyunsaturated fat contains the omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Flaxseed, hemp, safflower, and sunflower oil are very good sources (more than two thirds of their fat is polyunsaturated). Other oils with a significant amount of polyunsaturated fat are corn, pumpkin seed, sesame, soybean, and walnut oil.
Monounsaturated fat is very good for you, as it raises good cholesterol levels and lowers bad cholesterol. However, heat can destroy these beneficial properties, so these oils are healthiest when not used for cooking. Olive and avocado oil are the highest in monounsaturated fat; other good sources are canola, flaxseed, grape seed, hemp, palm, peanut, sesame, and sunflower oils.
All oils contain some combination of the above types of fat, so you
should always read the nutritional labels. Please read my article on
olive oil for additional information about
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