Understand Fats and Cholesterol for Healthy Eating

Control your fats and cholesterol for healthy eating.

Fats are found naturally in many types of food – for example, meat, nuts and certain types of vegetables. As ingredients, we often add fats – in the form of cooking oil, margarine, butter and so on – to enhance the taste and texture of our food. Our bodies need fats mainly because they provide an important source of energy for the body. Fats yield 2′/4 times more calories than protein or carbohydrates.

As for cholesterol, it is essential to the formation of cell membranes and production of hormones. Cholesterol is also used to make vitamin D and bile (which helps fat digestion and absorption of vitamins A, D, E and K). Given its role, cholesterol is produced naturally by our bodies. However, we also consume cholesterol contained in certain foods (such as organ meats and poultry eggs).

While performing vital functions, fats and cholesterol need to be consumed with care. Following is a useful guide for every family.

Healthy Guide to Fats & Cholesterol

Eat Less Fats. Fats are rich in energy. Thus, health and nutrition experts recommend that fats should constitute no more than 30% of our total daily caloric intake. Eating more than that (especially when we lack physical activity) will cause us to become overweight and possibly obese. Obesity is strongly associated with chronic diseases, including high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, diabetes and certain types of cancers.

Know Your Fats. The fats we eat basically come in two forms: saturated and unsaturated (i.e. polyunsaturated and mono unsaturated).Additionally, a process called hydrogenation (commonly used to manufacture certain margarines) can convert unsaturated fats (liquid state) into saturated fats (solid form). It is important to know about the difference between these types of fats because they can influence our blood cholesterol levels.

Cholesterol: Know the Difference

Cholesterol is transported in the blood mainly by LDLs (low-density lipoprotein) and HDLs (high-density lipoproteins). It is desirable to maintain low LDL and high HDL levels. This indicates that less cholesterol is remaining in the blood. On the other hand, high LDL and low HDL levels put us at risk of heart disease. Where there is high concentration of LDLs in the blood, they seep into the artery walls. There, they accumulate and eventually form little bumps on the inner surface of the arteries. This can severely block blood flow in the arteries, resulting in high blood pressure, heart attack and stroke.

Eat Less Saturated and Hydrogenated Fats. Saturated fats and hydrogenated fats can seriously inhibit our body’s ability to remove cholesterol from the blood. Thus, we should eat as little of these as possible. Butter fat (66% saturated) and coconut oil (94% saturated) ore examples of saturated fats derived from animal and certain vegetable sources, respectively. Palm oil also contains saturated fats (4 9%) but this is evenly balanced with an equivalent amount of unsaturated fats (50%). As such, palm oil can be considered either a partially-saturated fat or a neutral fat.

Choose Your Unsaturated Fats With Care. As they lower LDL levels, unsaturated fats ore generally healthier for the heart and arteries than saturated fats. Still, they should be consumed within acceptable limits.

Certain experiments have found that when polyunsaturated fats make up the entire fat intake, a reduction in both LDL and HDL levels occurred. This is not healthy because HDLs are important for removing cholesterol from the body. The experiments also found that such high levels of polyunsaturated fats could damage the immune system and caused cancer.

Monounsaturated fats, on the other hand, have been found to lower LDL levels while maintaining the level of HDLs. This means that more cholesterol is being transported out of the system, leaving less in the blood and thus reducing the risk of heart disease.

Eat Less Cholesterol-rich Foods. Eating cholesterol- rich foods will only increase the amount of cholesterol in our blood. Therefore, eat less of such foods.

We have now described the healthy approach to fats and cholesterol. Keep it in mind when preparing or buying food for your loved ones. Make it a part of your family’s healthy eating habits today.

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