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Healthy Fats

Let’s talk about fat. Not the kind that sticks to your hips, but the kind in your food.

Dietary fats, also known as lipids, come in several forms, either saturated or unsaturated, based on the ratios of hydrogen and carbon in their chemical structure. If a fat contains all the hydrogen that it can hold, it is saturated with hydrogen and is known as a saturated fat. Fats with less hydrogen are referred to as unsaturated fats. Fats that have been manipulated to hold more hydrogen through the process of hydrogenation are called trans fats.

Trans fats do not exist in nature. The process of hydrogenation allows processed foods to have a longer shelf life. Hydrogenated fats can be found in commercial crackers, cakes and cookies. Many fried foods contain hydrogenated fats, such as doughnuts and French fries. Margarine is also a hydrogenated product. Trans fats increase a person’s risk of coronary artery disease by increasing the LDL (bad) cholesterol and decreasing the HDL (good) cholesterol. Read labels faithfully, and avoid trans fats.

The human body needs fats to survive, but the form of ingested fat is important. Foods from animal sources, such as meat, eggs and dairy products contain saturated fats. Foods from plant sources are usually unsaturated. Choose good quality animal fats like salmon, grass-fed beef and wild game, as opposed to a greasy cheeseburger. Choose good unsaturated fats for the remainder of your dietary lipids, such as almonds, pecans, cashews, and peanut butter, avocados, olives and olive oil, and sunflower, sesame or pumpkin seeds. Make good fat choices during the winter months to avoid weight gain and feel your best.

--Dr. Kate Kennedy

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