Q.I get so confused about dietary fats. Which fats are good for me and which are not?
A. Many people are confused about dietary fats because there are good ones and bad ones.
What makes good fats good and bad fats bad is the effect they have on your body.
Some fats are best for frying and others are better used in salad dressings or as spreads. To choose healthy fats, keep this list in your wallet and refer to it when you are shopping.
• Saturated fats are found in palm-kernel seed oil and animal products such as dairy, beef, chicken, turkey, lamb and pork. They are considered bad fats because they promote heart disease, diabetes, obesity and other degenerative diseases.
To minimize these fats in your diet, buy skinless poultry and non-fat dairy products. Avoid eating beef and lamb; they have lots of saturated fat. Instead of butter, use one of the spreads listed below.
• Mono-unsaturated fats are found in olive and canola oil. If you fry your food, use these oils. However, don’t let the oil burn.
It is best to buy cold-pressed canola oil and extra-virgin olive oil, and to keep them refrigerated.
Studies have shown that olive oil has protective properties against heart disease. You can buy a buttery spread called Earth’s Balance that contains olive and canola oils.
• Omega-3 fats are found in walnuts, flax seed and fish. They are the most “friendly” fats because they help reduce cholesterol levels, decrease inflammation and promote health.
Walnut and flax oils should never be heated but are excellent in salad dressings. Spectrum Spread, a tasty spread containing flax oil, is available at health food stores. Fish that are high in omega-3 fats include salmon, tuna and trout.
• Omega-6 fats are found in corn, safflower, sunflower seed, cottonseed, soybean, peanut and sesame oils. They are abundant in the American diet. Unfortunately, they promote inflammation if consumed in excess.
Overall, it is best to increase omega-3 fats and decrease omega-6 fats in your diet. Avoid margarine and other hydrogenated oils. They are made from highly processed omega-6 fats. Processing produces unhealthy trans-fats, which have been shown to promote heart disease and potentially to increase cancer risk.
The bottom line is that fats can help you or they can hurt you. Choose friendly mono-unsaturated and omega-3 fats for optimal health.
Article was originally printed in the Honolulu Advertiser, honoluluadvertiser.com