Fats Are Not All Equal

Artherosclerosis, the blocking of arteries, is largely blamed on a diet that is high in fat. People have thus been advised to avoid fatty foods, so as to prevent heart disease and obesity.

This simplistic stance has been supported by the "Food Pyramid", which advocates replacing fat with extra carbohydrates. However, a high carbohydrate diet, particularly if comprising mainly of high Glycaemic Index components, can lead to insulin resistance and diabetes mellitus. It also fails to address the fact that some fats do have proven health benefits.

The type of fat that causes an increase in LDL cholesterol and artherosclerosis is saturated fat. Some saturated fats are worse than others. Fats found in dairy products like butter and whole milk have the strongest effect on LDL. Beef fat has less impact on LDL, and fats from chocolate and cocoa butter the least!

Trans Fats - The Bad Fats

Trans fats, also known as hydrogenated fats, are commonly found in commercially prepared foods. These substances result in a depression of the good HDL cholesterol, whilst simultaneously raising the levels of the bad LDL cholesterol, triglycerides and lipoprotein A. All these are linked with heart disease.

In addition, trans fats increase platelet "stickiness", potentially contributing to the incidence to heart attacks and strokes.

The Good Fats

The good news is that monunsaturated fats like olive oil and polyunsaturated fats like soyabean oil have many health benefits. People who consume more unsaturated versus saturated fats have a significantly lower risk for heart attacks and death from heart disease.

Omega-3: Essential Fatty Acids for Good Health

One class of polyunsaturated fatty acids is the Omega-3 fatty acids. These fatty acids are essential for good health. The basic molecule can't be manufactured by the body, so an adequate intake is essential. They are involved with maintaining normal physiology, particularly in the prevention of heart disease. Fish oils are a rich source of dietary Omega-3 fatty acids.

You can get more information on Omega-3 fatty acids at Cod Liver Omega-3 Foundation.

In conclusion, we should choose monounsaturated and polyunsaturated oils wherever possible. Food labels should be examined for evidence of trans fats. This will show as "partially hydrogenated" or "hydrogenated" vegetable oil or shortening.

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