Health Beat: Fat Facts

Content by: NCES, Inc.

There are 4 different kinds of fats: monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, saturated, and trans-fat.

Health Beat:  Fat Facts
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Understanding the difference between “good” and “bad” fats can be difficult. While fats and oils should be used sparingly, they should not be eliminated completely from the diet. Fats do provide the body with several important functions like providing energy, insulation, promoting healthy skin and hair, absorption and transport fat-soluble vitamins that are essential for good health.

The “Good” Fats. The 2 “good” fats are monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats and are essential fatty acids that cannot be produced by the body. These “good” fats consist of omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids. It has been found that a diet high in omega-3 fatty acids can help prevent diseases like diabetes, heart disease and obesity. Omega-3 fatty acids can be found in fatty fish such as herring, salmon, mackerel and trout. Three to four 3 ounce servings a week of any of these fish listed above will provide enough omega-3 fatty acids for a healthy diet. Omega-3 fatty acids can also be found in ground flaxseed, walnuts, almonds, canola and olive oils.

The “Bad” Fats. The other two forms of fat are saturated and Trans Fats. These types of fats are classified as “bad” fats and should be avoided as much as possible in the daily diet. Diets high in saturated and Trans fat have been linked to heart disease, stroke and high blood pressure. Saturated fat typically comes from animal-based foods such fatty meats, cheese butter, whole milk, coconut and palm oils. Trans fat in fat that was once liquid at room temperature, but made solid by a process called hydrogenization. Bakery goods, fried foods, and prepackaged foods are some of the most common forms of Trans fat.

How much fat should be consumed? It is good to keep fat consumption to less than 30% of total calories. For example, on a 2000 calorie diet, the average person would need approximately 65 grams of total fat. This means that 20% of ones fat intake should be from monounsaturated (10%) and polyunsaturated (10%) and 7-10% of fat should come from saturated fats with less than 1% from trans fats. If there is heart disease or have had a heart attack, always speak with a doctor and/or dietitian.

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