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Planning Retirement Online

Choosing the Right Fat

There has been so much news about the dangers of fat that many people live in terror of oil and fat; some avoid it altogether.

Yet fat has been a normal part of human food for centuries and not all fat is totally evil! In fact we all need some fat in our diet because it helps the body to absorb certain nutrients. Fat is also a source of energy and also some vitamins such as vitamins A and D. Fat also provides essential fatty acids that the body can’t make itself.

The problem is the different fats available.

Trans fats are to be avoided because they can raise cholesterol levels in the blood which can lead to heart disease and related problems. Trans fats can be found naturally in some foods at low levels, such as meat and dairy products, but by far the highest level of trans fats is found in certain processed foods such as biscuits and in foods containing hydrogenated vegetable oil.

Saturated fats are not so dangerous but there are different types of saturated fats. Most are definitely not great - they can raise your cholesterol levels and cause damage. Saturated fats are found in fatty cuts of meat; in butter, ghee and lard, in cheese (especially the harder varieties); in cream and ice cream and in many savoury and sweet snacks. However there are a few saturated fats, such as coconut oil, which are medium chain fatty acids and can help you produce good cholesterol.

What one really needs to look out for are the “good” fats; monounsaturated fats; polyunsaturated fats and omega-3s. These can be good for you and play a positive role in many health aspects including controlling your moods and fighting fatigue. Unsaturated fats instead of saturated fats can help lower blood cholesterol. Omega-3 fatty acids especially are highly concentrated in the brain and it is believed that they play a vital role in memory and problem solving abilities. Monounsaturated fats can help lower the levels of bad cholesterol in the blood and help increase good cholesterol.

So where can you find these “good” fats. Omega-3 is found in oily fish such as salmon, sardines and mackerel; in nuts and seeds and in sunflower and olive oils. It is also in soybean oil and canola oil.

Many fruit and vegetables such as avocadoes and olives contain unsaturated fats. Peanut butter is a good source but make sure the brand you buy doesn’t contain anything extra that has been “hydrogenated” or includes trans fat.

Soya milk is a source of polyunsaturated fat.

When choosing cooking oil, it is important to check what sort of oil you are buying. Rice bran oil for instance is being talked about as one of the world’s healthiest edible oils because it contains vitamins, antioxidants and nutrients and is trans fat free. It is also very light without a strong flavour, making it ideal for cooking and baking.

You can read more about the fats in cooking oils in a feature we wrote a little while ago ..see our story Cooking Oils are Simply Purified Fats from May 2011 (just put fat into the search box on our home page).

Interestingly, it is also important when you eat fat. You shouldn’t eat fats directly after exercise because they slow down your digestion.

Fats really are a very complex area and the mantra to avoid all fats is probably as bad as to totally ignore what fats you eat.

Carefully checking your fats and eating controlled levels of the right ones is definitely the way forward for a healthy body.


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The above article is part of the features section of called laterlife interest. laterlife interest contains a variety of articles of interest for visitors to written by a number of experienced and new journalists.

It includes both one off articles and also associated regular columns of a more specialist nature such as Healthwise, Gardener's Diary, our regular IT question and answer section called YoucandoIT and there's also 'It could be you' by Maggi Stamp laterlife's counsellor on human relationships. 

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