Saturday, June 16, 2012

Food Facts Friday: Fat rap!

I grew up post 'Twiggy', where skinny was beautiful, and fat was out ...and all fat was BAD, cause it well, it made you fat. Soon low-fat cookies, cakes, margarines & dairy products crowded the grocery shelves. 
Fast forward to 2012, 
where about 18% of all US children and about 67% of US adults 
are overweight or obese.
I guess those fat free cookies didn't help!
Maybe fat just got a bad rap?

How can it be that some people have really high cholesterol levels, and others, no problem? You've heard the stories - old Aunt Harriet has been eating two eggs everyday for breakfast for the last 95years and her ticker and arteries are just fine!

I just love Maxine!
That's because there's a difference between blood cholesterol and dietary cholesterol.
It turns out that only a small amount of cholesterol in our diet (like 1/4) contributes to our blood cholesterol levels. Cholesterol in our blood is not just controlled by what we eat, but also by our genetics. 
Maybe old Aunt Harriet has some good genes, 
and she doesn't make cholesterol, 
even though she eat foods high in cholesterol. 

Blood cholesterol is manufactured in our liver and carried through the blood in little packages, called lipoproteins. There are a couple of different types of these little lipoprotein packages, but two of the most popular are low density lipoproteins (LDL) and high density lipoproteins (HDL). For people that make cholesterol, it s*#cks - those peeps have an inherited predisposition which leads them to make cholesterol, so they really need to watch what they eat (eh,hem ...DAD!).

But if eating foods high in cholesterol doesn't really influence cholesterol levels, then why do we need to watch what we eat? 

Mainly because we don't want a lot of the bad cholesterol, the LDL cholesterol, in our blood. If LDL cholesterol builds up in the walls of the arteries that feed the brain and heart, it can lead to a heart attack or stroke.
That yellow stuff is cholesterol deposits is an artery.
Gross, right?
A big influence on our LDL levels is SATURATED FAT and TRANS FAT.
Saturated fat is found in animal products, dairy products (whole & 2% milk, ice cream & cheese), butter, and tropical oils - like coconut oil, palm oil & coco butter. Trans fat, like partially hydrogenated and hydrogenated oils, can be found in fried fast food, baked goods (cake & doughnuts) and processed sweets (candy). 

Another type of fat made in our bodies are the triglycerides. Blood triglyceride levels are really tied into lifestyle habits, like smoking, excess alcohol consumption and stress, inactivity and being overweight or obese. It's also not uncommon for people who have high triglyceride levels to have high cholesterol levels.
There is also a good side to fat
Just like high levels of LDL are bad, high HDL blood levels (>40mg/dL) are good. Some think that HDL can remove unhealthy cholesterol build-up from arteries!
Woo Hoo!
Foods that raise your HDL levels  are considered 'healthy fats'. Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are health fats. Think of these as those fats that are liquid at room temperature.

Healthy monounsaturated fats include olive, canola, sunflower or corn oil, as well as oils from nuts, like almonds, peanuts, pistachios and cashews. These fats are where we find the essential Omega-6 nutrient (essential because our bodies can't make it, but has to come from food).

Healthy polyunsaturated fats include soybean oil, walnuts, sunflower, chia, flax  and sesame seeds, and fatty fish, like salmon, tuna, herring. These fats are where we find the essential Omega-3 nutrient. These are my favorite because they help fight inflammation
Still hurt running, yesterday!
Sushi salmon rolls, tonight!
So, next time you want a salty snack, like fries or chips, go for a small handful of pistachios, cashews or almonds. If you are trying to fight the sweet attack and crave cake, cookies or candy, mix some flaxseed into your favorite low fat yogurt or some dates into your favorite nut mix. Maybe you can replace that meat dish once a week with some fresh tuna or salmon. And ....
Exercise raises your HDL levels and lowers your triglyceride levels!
How much? What type? Look here!
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