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What makes unsaturated fats “better” and how can I get more of them in my diet?

Sep 24, 2013

Stacy Adams
FT Central Georgetown

"In simple terms, saturated fats are known for clogging your arteries whereas unsaturated fats are known for providing your body with the essential fatty acids it requires but doesn't produce on it's own.

"A few ways you can increase your unsaturated fat intake and decrease your saturated fat intake are to replace mayonnaise with a few slices of avocado, go for the salmon for dinner rather than the ribeye or use olive oil on your salad instead of dressing.
"Get creative and have fun trying new ways of incorporating unsaturated fats into your daily diet.  But remember, both good fats and bad fats are calorically dense and can make you gain weight! Keep your servings in check and keep your fat consumption below 30% of your daily caloric intake."

Kelly Blackwin
FT Santa Monica

"Saturated fats and trans fats are bad for you because they raise your cholesterol and increase your risk for heart disease. But monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats are good for you, lowering cholesterol and reducing your risk of heart disease.
Some sources of good fats include canola oil, sesame oil, olives, walnuts and flaxseed."

Bruce Kelly
FT Media

"I think we know now that fats, per se, aren't evil. In fact, they are essential for things like brain function and nerve health.  The types, quantity and quality of fats are the issue. Even saturated fats have a place in a nutrition plan.

"Good fats are in foods like nuts, avocado, olive oil, coconuts, fish and eggs to name a few. The caveat has to be that fats are very calorically dense -- 9 calories per gram vs. 4 calories per gram for protein and carbs -- so you have to be very aware of portion control. Those few handfuls of nuts can add calories quickly no matter the health benefits. And though the quality of calories is very important there also is a thermodynamic aspect to nutrition -- calories in vs. calories out."

Sue Teoli
FT New Canaan

"Saturated fats -- which Americans are trying to avoid -- are not the cause of our modern diseases.  They play many important roles in body chemistry.

"Saturated fatty acids constitute at least 50% of cell membranes. They are what gives our cells necessary stiffness and integrity.  They also play a vital role in the health of our bones. For calcium to be effectively incorporated into the skeletal structure, at least 50% of dietary fats should be saturated.  And they lower Lp(a), a substance in the blood that indicates proneness to heart disease.

"Foods containing saturated fats include butter, dark chocolate and cheese.  Therefore, eat more chocolate and cheese!"

Billy Beyer
FT Basking Ridge

"Good fats protect your heart and support overall health! You can get more good fats in your diet by switching to coconut oil."

Dr. Janet Brill
FT Nutritionist

"Unsaturated fatty acids are mostly 'good,' or protective, fats, found in plants such as nuts, seeds, olives, and marine life such as fatty fish. Healthy, unsaturated fatty acids have longer carbon chains than saturated fatty acids and contain varying numbers of double bonds, or kinks, in the long fatty acid chain.

"If the chain contains only one kink, or one spot of unsaturation, it's called a monounsaturated fatty acid.  There are two classes of polyunsaturated fatty acids: omega-3 and omega-6. Both classes contain several kinks, or spots of unsaturation, in the carbon chain -- multiple double bonds where a carbon is missing two hydrogen atoms.  The multiple double bonds allow these unsaturated fats to have bends in their structure which enable the fatty acids to favor hook shapes, limiting their ability to be closely packed together and solid at room temperature like artery-clogging saturated fat.  Liquid unsaturated fatty acids tend to be heart-healthier than solid saturated fats.

"Not all polyunsaturated fats are created equally!  One particular type of polyunsaturated fatty acid, the omega-3’s, are the most cardioprotective. A large concentration of omega-3 fatty acids is found in fatty fish such as salmon and in plant foods such as flaxseeds.

"The best advice in the kitchen is to replace plaque-building or inflammatory fats -—butter, hydrogenated fats, and tropical oils -- with healthful oils containing a low amount of saturated fatty acids and a relatively high amount of the heart-healthy monounsaturated fatty acids and omega-3 fatty acids."


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