The body needs a certain amount of fat in the diet. It stores fat to
serve as a quick energy source and to protect important organs. However,
all fats and oils are high in calories. Fats provide 9 calories for each gram
contained in food, while protein and carbohydrates each provide only 4
calories. While fat is necessary and essential for proper health, some
of fats are damaging to the cardiovascular system.
Artery-clogging fats that increase blood cholesterol include saturated
fat and trans fat. Saturated fat mainly comes from animal sources like meat
and dairy products, but it can also be found in coconut and palm oils.
fat comes from hydrogenated vegetable oils, like margarine and vegetable
shortening. Both saturated fats and trans fats stay solid at room
A more heart healthy fat is unsaturated fat, generally found in
vegetables. This type of fat includes both monounsaturated and
polyunsaturated fats. Monounsaturated fat is found in olive, canola and
peanut oils. These oils are liquid at room temperature but start to thicken
when refrigerated. This type of fat is considered the healthiest for your
heart and body. Avocados and nuts also contain monounsaturated fat.
Polyunsaturated fat is found in soybean, corn, safflower and sunflower oils.
These oils are liquid at room temperature and in the refrigerator. This
of fat is considered the next healthiest fat that does not clog arteries.
However, when unsaturated vegetable oils are manufactured into solid
form, they turn into trans fats. This type of fat is commonly called fully
or partially hydrogenated vegetable oil in a food's list of ingredients.
Trans fats are found in hundreds of processed foods, usually to protect
against spoiling and to enhance flavor. Restaurants tend to use a lot of
trans fat (hydrogenated vegetable oil), especially for frying.
Trans fats are even worse for the cardiovascular system than saturated
fats. Researchers have conservatively calculated that trans fats alone
account for at least 30,000 premature deaths from heart disease every year
the United States. Recent studies indicate that trans fats drive up the
body's LDL, the bad cholesterol, even faster than saturated fats. High
levels of cholesterol have been linked to heart disease and stroke.
Diets high in fat, particularly saturated fat, also promotes breast,
colon, endometrial, lung, prostate and rectal cancers. Therefore, saturated
fats and trans fats are the only fats that we should strive to eliminate
our diet. Replace these fats with monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.
The American Heart Association recommends that daily fat intake should be
less than 30 percent of total calories; saturated fat intake less than 8-10
percent of total calories, and cholesterol less than 300 milligrams per day.
Always read the Nutrition Facts label and list of ingredients to find out
amount of, and the type of, fat contained in any particular food.
This article is an excerpt from the book "Virtues of Soy: A Practical Health
Guide and Cookbook" by Monique N. Gilbert (Universal Publishers, $19.95,
available at most Internet booksellers). http://www.virtuesofsoy.com
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