Good fats turn bad when they’re not treated right. Treat “em” bad and they’ll turn on you!
For instance, stale fats and fats exposed to air oxidize, making them extremely unhealthy. Further, the rate of oxidation increases with exposure to light and warmer temperature.
“Oxidized fats can damage DNA, promote the development of cancer, and speed up aging and degenerative changes in our tissues,” says Andrew Weil, MD, in 8 Weeks to Optimum Health.
It’s important to know about fats because…
You Need Fats
Fats count as essential foods. They play a key role in a host of important body functions like these:
Absorption of nutrients including the fat-soluble vitamins (A, E, D, K)
Energy production and storage
Nervous system and brain health
Plus, fats in a meal satisfy appetite so you’re less likely to overeat. They help natural healing.
The problem is most people eat too much fat or the wrong kinds of fats. The key is to limit your overall fat intake to about 30 percent of daily calories and substitute bad fats with good fats.
What are the Bad Fats?
Saturated fats (those in red meat and dairy products) and trans fats count as bad fats. These fats increase your risk of heart disease, stroke, and other disease.
Less than 10 percent of your daily fat calories should come from saturated fats, says “The USDA Food and Nutrition Information Center Dietary Guidelines.” Trans fats (also called partially hydrogenated fats or oils) are man-made through a process that adds hydrogen to liquid vegetable oils.
Food companies use trans fats in their foods because they cost less and last a long time, thus adding to the foods’ shelf life. Fast food and other restaurants use trans fats to deep fry foods as the oils can be reused many times over.
Trans fats are found in most processed foods especially fast food, snack foods, baked goods, crackers, spreads and “fat-free” food.
Margarine contains trans fats too. It’s made through a process of hardening vegetable oils that increases the percentage of saturated fat and deforms fatty acids creating trans fatty acids (TFAs).
TFAs may unbalance the hormonal systems that regulate healing, harm cell membranes, and encourage the development of cancer, says Weil.
What are the Good Fats?
The good fats are the polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats with monounsaturated fatsbeing the best for you.
They help your heart and blood vessels by raising HDL, “good” cholesterol and have no effect on total cholesterol.
Foods high in monounsaturated fats include:
- Olive oil
- Some nuts (particularly walnuts)
- Fatty fish like salmon and tuna rich in omega-3 fatty acids
- Flaxseed, hempseed, chia, and perilla rich in linolenic acid (ALA)
The best all-around oil is olive oil, rich in oleic fatty acid. We seem to be able to process this fatty acid better than other types. Besides populations that rely on olive oil, have lower rates of heart disease and cancer.
It’s also one of the best oils you can use in making soaps.
Now how to keep good fats from turning bad…
7 Tips for Choosing and Caring for Fats
- Read labels and don’t buy foods with trans fats, hydrogenated, or partially hydrogenated fats in their ingredients.
- Buy oils and nuts in smaller containers so that you can use them up quickly. Avoid buying nuts from bulk containers where harmful molds and contaminates are more likely to occur.
- Protect oils and nuts from light and heat. It’s best to keep them in the refrigerator.
- Make a habit of smelling oils and fat containing foods like nuts and chips. Discard if they have a strange odor or smell “rancid.”
- Use olive oil (extra-virgin preferably). A second best is canola oil, which has a more neutral taste. Since it’s producers often use pesticides, buy organic, expeller-pressed canola oil, says Weil.
- Avoid margarine; try olive oil as a spread for bread instead. If you need a more firm texture, Weil says butter is preferable to margarine.
- Avoid high-heat cooking methods like deep frying. Try boiling, roasting, baking, grilling, braising, or stir-frying with a little oil instead.
You need fats (about 30 percent of your daily calories). Use good fats (like olive oil) over bad fats and follow these 7 tips in choosing and caring for them.