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The Truth about Dietary Fats and Your Health

Posted Apr 09 2012 12:00pm

It seems like every day new evidence is coming forward to refute what we’ve learned about good health. Dietary fats are no exception. You know the drill by now:

  • Trans fats are bad
  • Saturated fats are bad too
  • Cut back on the amount of eggs you eat

The fact is that while some of this still holds true, the basic message needs some tweaking. Trans fats hang on to their place–out of your diet. You should still avoid them whenever possible. Saturated fats, on the other hand, are a different matter.

The Other Side of Saturated Fats
Part of the problem with these fats is calorie count. You eat a lot, gain weight and increase your risk for heart disease. However, they also offer health benefits like lowering trigylcerides and increasing HDL, or good cholesterol. Bear in mind that your body needs fat in order to function properly. Drastically reducing your fat content is not always the wisest strategy.

The other factor is the type of saturated fat. More and more research is refining how to group meat. Processed meats like sausage and bacon present more of a health risk than red meat. It’s related to the sodium content and specifically, sodium nitrite.

Adding Healthy Plant-Based Oils to Your Diet
Since fat is necessary, the next question is which fats should you consume? Plant-based oils such as canola and olive oil fit the bill. Enjoying a variety of oils adds more of the good things like omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids to your diet. That’s a good thing. They can reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease by keeping your blood vessels flexible, also a good thing.

Bad Rap for the Egg
For a long time, it was believed that dietary cholesterol could negatively affect your health. The natural culprit then, was the egg with its 186 mg of cholesterol per large egg. However, by , you miss out on an important source of vitamin D and other nutrients.

This is not to say that dietary cholesterol is not bad. Research has shown that some individuals are genetically hardwired to be more affected by it. These so-called hyperresponders experience the effects from egg consumption more than most individuals. There’s just not an easy way for you to know which group you follow into. Diabetics, however, should also limit their consumption.

As a general health precaution, you should have your cholesterol checked regularly, especially if there is heart disease in your family history. Cholesterol is easy to control versus the recovery from a cardiac event. Knowing your numbers will give you the info you need to make good dietary decisions.

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