10 ways to improve your nutritional health as you age:#9. Choose healthy fats

Is all fat bad? Well, NO! But those illustrated below should be taken in moderation! I know it’s hard because fat tastes NICE! – It’s the difference between a boiled potato and a French fry!

These are the bad guys with lots of saturated and trans fats. Naughty but nice!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We need some but can choose the healthier options and reduce our risk of heart disease and stroke. Healthier monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats can help protect your body against disease and support mood and mental well-being. Olive oil, avocado, nuts and fish high in omega-3 fatty acids are examples, but do remember fats are high calorie foods! Fat has 9 calories per gram, more than 2 times the number of calories in carbohydrates and protein, which each have 4 calories per gram. 

What are Fats?

Dietary fats provide energy for the body, for example during exercise, your body uses calories from ingested carbohydrates but after 20 minutes or so of exercise requires calories from fat to keep going.

Healthy skin and hair also require fat healthy.

Fat also helps you absorb vitamins , the so-called

Important fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E & K).

Fat acts as an energy store for later use and insulates so as to keep the body warm – But remember there can also be too much of a good thing!

The essential fatty acids linoleic and linolenic acid are so called because unlike others the body can’t make them. They are essential for brain development, controlling inflammation, blood clotting etc.

Types of fat

Saturated fats raise your LDL* (bad) cholesterol level. High LDL cholesterol puts you at risk for heart attack, stroke, and other major health problems. You should avoid or limit foods that are high in saturated fats. 

*I remember this we want LDL to be Low and HDL to be High on our cholesterol test. 

  • Foods with a lot of saturated fats are animal products, such as butter, cheese, whole milk, ice cream, cream, and fatty meats.
  • Some vegetable oils, such as coconut, palm, and palm kernel oil, also contain saturated fats. These fats are solid at room temperature.
  • Saturated fat increases cholesterol build-up in your arteries increasing the risk of stroke and heart disease..

By eating unsaturated fats instead one can lower LDL cholesterol. Most vegetable oils that are liquid at room temperature have unsaturated fats.

Unsaturated fats

Unsaturated fats, which are liquid at room temperature, are considered beneficial fats because they can improve blood cholesterol levels, ease inflammation, stabilize heart rhythms, and play a number of other beneficial roles. Unsaturated fats are predominantly found in foods from plants, such as vegetable oils, nuts, and seeds.

There are two types of “good” unsaturated fats:

There are two kinds of unsaturated fats:

1. Monounsaturated fats are found in high concentrations in:

  • Olive, peanut, and canola oils
  • Avocados
  • Nuts such as almonds, hazelnuts, and pecans
  • Seeds such as pumpkin and sesame seeds

 

 

 

2. Polyunsaturated fats are found in high concentrations in

  • Sunflower, corn, soybean, and flaxseed oils
  • Walnuts
  • Flax seeds
  • Fish
  • Canola oil – though higher in monounsaturated fat, it’s also a good source of polyunsaturated fat.
  •  

Trans fatty acids are unhealthy fats that form when vegetable oil goes through a process called hydrogenation. This leads the fat to harden and become solid at room temperature. Hydrogenated fats, or “trans fats,” are often used to keep some foods fresh for a long time.

Trans fats are also used for cooking in some restaurants. They can raise LDL cholesterol levels in your blood. They can also lower your HDL (good) cholesterol levels.

Trans fats are known to have harmful health effects. Experts are working to limit the amount of trans fats used in packaged foods and restaurants.

It is important to read nutrition labels on foods.

You should avoid foods made with hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils (such as hard butter and margarine). They contain high levels of trans-fatty acids.

 

 

Omega-3 fats are an important  type of polyunsaturated fat. The body can’t make these, so they must come from food.

  • An excellent way to get omega-3 fats is by eating oily fish 2-3 times a week.
  • Good plant sources of omega-3 fats include flax seeds, walnuts, and canola or soybean oil.
  • Higher blood omega-3 fats are associated with lower risk of premature death among older adults, according to a study by HSPH faculty.

Most people don’t eat enough healthful unsaturated fats. 

  • Dutch researchers conducted an analysis of 60 trials that examined the effects of carbohydrates and various fats on blood lipid levels. In trials in which polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats were eaten in place of carbohydrates, these good fats decreased levels of harmful LDL and increased protective HDL. 
  • More recently, a randomized trial known as the Optimal Macronutrient Intake Trial for Heart Health (OmniHeart) showed that replacing a carbohydrate-rich diet with one rich in unsaturated fat, predominantly monounsaturated fats, lowers blood pressure, improves lipid levels, and reduces the estimated cardiovascular risk. 

 

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