Recent studies have challenged the long-held notion that saturated fats in your diet increase your risk of heart disease.  For years, we were encouraged to eat low-fat diets, yet obesity, diabetes and heart disease skyrocketed.  Fat was being replaced with sugar and refined carbohydrates and our health was deteriorating as a result.  What is becoming increasingly clear is that all fats are not bad and it’s important to pay attention to they type of fat you’re eating and the role it plays in your diet as a whole.

First of all, it’s important to know that your body needs the fat from the food you eat.  It provides energy, it helps you absorb vitamins and minerals, it’s used to build cell membranes and it’s needed for blood clotting and muscle movement.  What’s also important though is to realize that there are bad fats, good fats and fats that fall in-between.

Trans fats are the worst type of fat you can eat because they raise your LDL (bad cholesterol) and lower your HDL (good cholesterol).  They also cause inflammation which is linked to heart disease, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, arthritis, stroke and other chronic conditions.  Even though there is a small percentage of naturally occurring trans fats in some meats and dairy products, the largest amount of it comes from factory-produced trans fats that are found in processed foods.  An industrial process is used to add hydrogen to vegetable oil that turns it solid at room temperature so that it will be less likely to spoil and last longer on the shelf.  Check the labels on processed foods and stay away from them if they contain “partially hydrogenated” vegetable oils.

Saturated fats are found in such foods as fatty meats, full-fat dairy like butter and cheese, coconut oil and dark chocolate.  They are solid at room temperature.  Although saturated fats raise LDL, they also raise HDL, and many recent studies have concluded that saturated fat does not increase your risk of heart disease.

Unsaturated fats, which can be monounsaturated or polyunsaturated, are liquid at room temperature and mainly come from vegetables, nuts, seeds and fish.  These oils have been found to actually reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease and are the best type of fat you can eat.  Focus on foods like olive oil, avocados, salmon, flaxseeds and walnuts.

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