Weight Loss Strategies - Separate the Good Fats From the Bad

By: Kalvin C. Chinyere, M.D.

Fats have been wrongly accused. They have been blamed for the millions of overweight people in the United States. The truth is that in moderation, some fats can actually be helpful. If you know how to separate the "good" fats from the "bad" fats, you can improve your health and lose weight.

Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids (PUFAs)

Polyunsaturated fats are one of the two types of "good" fats typically eaten. These fats are considered "good" because of their many health benefits.

PUFAs are best known for preventing cardiovascular disease. PUFAs can help your body lower LDL cholesterol, the "bad" cholesterol that increases your risk of cardiovascular disease. They can also help your body to raise HDL cholesterols, the "good" cholesterol that decreases your risk of cardiovascular disease.

There are two main types of PUFAs consumed by humans. They are omega-3 fatty acids and omega-6 fatty acids. Omega-3 FAs are found in fish, flaxseed, and eggs. Omega-6 FAs are found in vegetable oils, eggs, and poultry. Many foods, including soybeans, have both types of fatty acids.

PUFAs are important because of their health benefits. However, they are also important because your body cannot produce Omega-3s and Omega-6s. They are the only two essential fatty acids, so you must eat them in order to survive.

Americans eat plenty of Omega-6 FAs, but they do not eat enough Omega-3s. This imbalance in PUFA consumption is contributing to the poor health of people in the United States.

Monounsaturated Fatty Acids (MUFAs)

Monounsaturated fats are the second type of "good" fats. Similar to PUFAs, MUFAs help your body to lower LDL and raise HDL, decreasing your risk of cardiovascular disease. However, unlike PUFAs, MUFAs are not essential. These can be found in liquid vegetable oils, such as olive, peanut, and canola. They can also be found in nuts, such as walnuts, peanuts, cashews and almonds. Avocados are also rich in MUFAs.

Saturated Fatty Acids

Saturated fats are one of the two types of "bad" fats. They are considered bad because if you eat too many of them, they can be harmful to your health.

Unlike PUFAs and MUFAs, saturated fatty acids increase your risk of cardiovascular disease. They do this by helping to raise your LDL or "bad" cholesterol. These are the fats associated with animals that walk, such as beef, pork, poultry, milk, and milk products. They can also be found in plants, such as coconuts, coconut oil, and palm oil.

Artificial Trans Fatty Acids

Artificial trans fats are the worst type of fats. These man-made fats greatly increase your risk of cardiovascular disease by helping to raise your LDL "bad" cholesterol and lower your HDL "good" cholesterol.

These are created by adding hydrogen to PUFAs and MUFAs. This process removes all of the benefits of the "good" fats and makes them even worst than saturated fats. They are used because they have a high melting point and they increase the shelf life of foods prepared with them. Artificial trans fats can be found in baked goods, fried foods, fast foods, potato chips, and margarines.

All fats are not created equal. Some are good for you and others are bad for you. Eat polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats in moderation to improve your health and lose weight.

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