Get Savvy about Fat

1. Get Savvy about Fat

For all of the low-fat rhetoric, know this: Without fat in our food, we might as well be eating cardboard. Not only do our bodies need fat to function, but the simple fact is that fat tastes good. It may also trigger chemical receptors in our body that create a feeling of fullness and well-being. So fat isn’t all bad. Actually, some types of fat are downright good for your arteries. Get enough of these “good” fats, eliminate enough of the “bad” fats, and watch your cholesterol levels improve and your heart disease risk plummet. This doesn’t mean you have free rein when it comes to fat; we still want you to limit your overall intake of fat to about 25 percent of calories. The point is that both quality and quantity count.

Hazards of the Hard Stuff

Butter. Milk. Steak. Hamburgers. Cream. Cheese, You can just taste their richness now, can’t you? Well, much of that richness comes from the high level of saturated fats in these foods. Saturated fat is solid at room temperature—picture the congealed grease in the pan after you fry hamburgers. This type of fat raises LDL as surely as an argument with your spouse raises your blood pressure. Even just one meal high in saturated fat (think double-bacon cheeseburger and large fries) can temporarily increase your nsk of a heart attack or stroke if you already have heart disease because it raises triglycerides and reduces nitric oxide production, which, as you
read in this Chapter , plays a vital role in the health of your arteries.

You can’t avoid saturated fat altogether; even “healthy” fats like olive and canola oil contain some. But they have far less than other fats, like butter. Most Americans get about 12 percent of their calories from saturated fat; on the Lave It Down Plan you’ll bring that number down to 7 percent or less. To do it you just need to cul out the equivalent of about three pats of butter a day

What the Eskimos Know

Another type of fat is called polyunsaturated fat. Found in most vegetable oils, fish oils, and oily fish, this fat lowers total blood cholesterol and reduces blood stickiness,
thus preventing clotting. It’s made up of essential fatty acids, which help your cells communicate, protect you from cancer, and regulate blood sugar

There are two main types of essential fatty acids: linoleic acid (omega 6) and y alpha-linolenic acid (omega 3). Neither one of these can be made by our bodies; we must get them from food

Omega-6 fatty acids are found in most vegetable oils, like safflower, sunflower, corn, and soybean. Omega-3s are found in most fish and in Haxseed Most of us get way more omega-6 fats than omega-3s, and thats not good While omega-6s don’t contribute to increased LDL like saturated fats do, they can lower HDL and increase the oxidation of LDL, contributing to the production of cell-damaging free radicals. Omega-3s, on the other hand, lower VLDL Qwhich eventually turn into LDL) and triglycerides. They’re the reason Greenland Eskimos have such low rates of heart disease, despite the fact that they have one of the highest-fat diets in the world, get very few vegetables, fruits, or fiber, and they smoke.

Unlike the Eskimos, Americans don’t get nearly enough of these valuable fats. Our early ancestors got a nearly perfect 1:1 ratio between omega-6s and omega-3s; today our ratio is closer to 25:1. So the Plan increases the fish in your diet, adds a fish-oil supplement, and encourages you to sprinkle flaxseed on everything from yogurt to cereal. It also switches you over from the ubiquitous corn oil to more healthful fats like canola and olive oils. Substituting these fats for saturated fats lowers LDL and also increases HDL.

A New Public Enemy

Lurking in French fries and any packaged food with the words “hydrogenated” or “partially hydrogenated” on the label, trans fats (also referred to as trans fatty acids) are often called hidden fats because they masquerade as “healthy” vegetable oil. But their original chemical composition has been changed, resulting in a higher melting point and longer shelf life, Unfortunately, what’s good for the food industry is bad for the arteries: Trans fats are at least as harmful to your arteries as saturated fats. In September 2002 the National Academy of Sciences made it official, concluding that these fats were as bad as, if not worse than, saturated fat in raising coronary heart disease (CHD) risk. The only safe amount to eat, concludes the Academy, is none. Trans fats not only raise LDL more than saturated fats do, but they also lower HDL. Small wonder, then, that Harvard researchers estimate that these fats should be blartied for nearly 30,000 premature deaths every year in the United States, Major sources of trans fats include:

  • Anything made with partially hydrogenated oils, such as crackers, cookies, doughnuts, breads, and frozen waffles. e Corn puffs, popcorn, chips.
  • French fires or chicken fried in hydrogenated shortening.
  • Stick margarines and vegetable oil spreads; some tub margarines may also contain trans fats

In fall 2002 the FDA announced it would require that food producers list the amount of trans fats on product labels, along with other nutrition facts.

One fast-food giant has already made a move against trans fats; In September 2002, McDonald’s announced it would reduce the amount of trans fats in its french fries and other fried foods. To do that it switched to a variety of corn and soybean oils high in polyunsaturated fats but lower in saturated and trans fats. Lest you be fooled into thinking french fries have now moved into the “healthy” category on the nutrition chart, think again. The switch doesn’t affect calories, which, in a super-sized order of fries equal 610, a whopping 43 percent of them coming from fat. If you eat the whole order of fries solo, you’ll get 29 grams of fat—somewhere in the neighborhood of half your entire day’s allowance.

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