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The Big Fat Truth: Why Non-Fat Isn't the Answer

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Stop treating it like the dirty F-word. Here's why you need fat to lose weight, improve your mood, and boost your immune system.

The Skinny on Fat

You've shied away from eating it and worked on the treadmill to burn it off. But fat, it turns out, can be your friend. "Your body needs it in order to function," says Barbara Roberts, MD, director of the Women's Cardiac Center at the Miriam Hospital in Providence and author of How to Keep from Breaking Your Heart. "Fats help you absorb vitamins A, D, and E, and they are vital for your nervous system." Not only that, women who ate a Mediterranean diet filled with healthy monounsaturated fat lowered their risk of heart disease by 29 percent, according to a new study in Circulation.

Of your total daily calories, 25 to 30 percent should come from fat. The keys: Pick good-for-you fats, and limit the bad kinds. Don't know a saturated from a poly? Here's the skinny on which fats to eat and which to avoid.

The Good: Unsaturated Fats

Monounsaturated Fats
What they do: These fats, known as MUFAs, raise good HDL cholesterol, lower bad LDL cholesterol, and protect against the buildup of plaque in your arteries. They also help prevent belly fat, according to research.
Where you'll find them: In olive oil and olives, canola oil, almonds, cashews, peanuts, peanut butter, sesame seeds, and avocados.
How much you need: Most of the fat you eat should be unsaturated, like MUFAs. "Just two to three tablespoons of olive oil a day can raise HDL levels and protect against heart disease," says Dr. Roberts.

Polyunsaturated Fats
What they do: In addition to lowering your LDL, these fats contain essential omega-3 fatty acids -- which boost brain function and may help strengthen your immune system and improve your mood -- and omega-6 fatty acids, which in small amounts can keep skin and eyes healthy.
Where you'll find them: Omega-3s are primarily in fish like salmon, mackerel, and herring, as well as canola oil, flaxseed, walnuts, and tofu. Omega-6s are in corn and safflower oil, corn-fed chicken and beef, and farmed fish.
How much you need: Most of the polys you eat should be omega-3s. Too much omega-6 can lead to inflammation, which is linked to heart disease. Trade vegetable oil for olive and canola oils, and eat grass-fed beef and wild-caught fish.

The Bad: Saturated Fats

What they do: They raise cholesterol levels and increase your risk of heart disease.
Where you'll find them: In meat and poultry, in dairy products like cream, butter, and whole and 2 percent milk, and in some plant foods like coconut and palm oil.
How much you need: Limit saturated fat to less than 10 percent of your total daily calories. One easy way to cut back: "Remove any hard fat you can see, such as the skin on chicken," says Christine Gerbstadt, MD, RD, a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association.

The Ugly: Trans Fats

What they do: Made from unsaturated fat that's been chemically altered to prolong the shelf life of packaged foods, trans fats raise bad LDL and lower good HDL, increasing inflammation throughout the body. "They 100 percent promote heart disease," says Dr. Gerbstadt.
Where you'll find them: In shortening, margarine, doughnuts, french fries, and processed foods such as crackers, cookies, chips, and cakes.
How much you need: Zero. But know this: The FDA allows food manufacturers to claim that a product contains "zero trans fats" if one serving of it has 0.5 grams of trans fats or less. "That means if you eat more than one serving, you could be getting a gram or more," warns Dr. Gerbstadt. Before buying foods, check the ingredient labels for "partially hydrogenated vegetable oil" -- trans fats' sneaky pseudonym.

Next:  Fight the Flab


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geoffloomis wrote:

The problem with research is that it contradicts itself. You have to look at the whole body of research on one topic and make your decision from that. Saturated fats on the whole are still shown to be bad.

8/8/2014 05:41:57 PM Report Abuse
myksmurf wrote:

This is a great article and it offers great value, however i feel that the writer should expound more on saturated and unsaturated fats...there are other articles I have read which say different about saturated fat, being healthy. source:

5/19/2014 03:30:35 AM Report Abuse
rlnslo wrote:

I agree with wcmarkham above. This article is NOT well-researched. The author's take on fats is skewed. The ONLY thing the author got right in this write-up was under UGLY fats. Everything else is giving nutritionally-hurtful information. No wonder people are sick. They get a lot of bad advice. Research and rewrite or simply take down!!!

4/29/2014 09:52:57 PM Report Abuse
forestjames3 wrote:

Never thought that eating fat can help us lose fat. So if we eat good fats we can actually lose weight. I,m a weight loss expert and gives instructions to people who want to lose weight. You article was really informative and i will definitely do more research on it.

1/21/2014 10:52:56 AM Report Abuse
wcmarkham57385 wrote:

Very misinformative article. SATURATED FATS ARE GOOD FOR US! And coconut oil is a super food! Mother's milk is best for babies and it's mostly saturated fats!

1/15/2014 01:26:23 AM Report Abuse

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