Dietary fat has had to take the blame for many health problems, but not all fats is the same. Different types have different chemical structures, some types are essential, which means they cannot be made in the body and have to be present in the diet, while others contributes to heart disease and should be eaten sparingly.
Ideally, intake of saturated fats, which are found in dairy products and farmed meat, should be limited. In addition, you should avoid hydrogenated fats, which are found in many types of margarine and processed foods, such as cookies. Hydrogenated fats have been altered chemically during processing so that the body is less able to deal with them safely. Both these types of fats can aggravate inflammation and, as a result, aggravate the symptoms of eczema, asthma and arthritis.
Many health conscious people have opted to ban meat and dairy products from their diets. In many ways this is unwise, as these products are valuable sources of minerals. Some fat is also essential to allow absorption of the fat soluble vitamins, A, D and E. You can limit the amount you eat, however, by selecting small portions of lean red meat, white meat without the skin, wild game (which contains a greater proportion of unsaturated fats), fish, and low fat dairy products.
The Good Fat
The essential fats are the polyunsaturated omega 3 and omega 6 fats which are needed for healthy cell membranes and to counteract inflammation, some of which can be caused by unhealthful fats. Because these fats are usually liquid at room temperature, they are often called oils.
Polyunsaturated oils, however, should not be used for cooking, as they change chemically when heated or exposed to the air. This does not happen to the monounsaturated omega 9 oils, though, as they are more stable. These oils help prevent the skin from becoming dry and the walls of the arteries from becoming hardened.
Where to find healthful oils and fat
All parts of plants contain small amount of healthful oils, which is another reason for making sure you eat plenty of fruit and vegetables, especially green vegetables, such as spinach, purslane and kale. The highest concentrations of oil from plants, however, are found in seeds, nuts and whole grains. The omega 3 oils are also found in oily fish.
Essential Fatty Acids
Omega 3 Fats
- Oily fish: salmon, mackerel, sardine, tuna, anchovies
- Plant sources: flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds, walnuts, wheat germ, canola and hemp seeds
Omega 6 fats
- Sunflower seeds, safflower seeds, sesame seeds, canola, evening primrose, and starflower seed oils, grape seeds, hemp seeds, soy beans, and pumpkin seeds
Omega 9 fats
- Olive oil, avocado
When extracted for supplements or cooking, unsaturated oils should be cold pressed. Keep omega 3 and omega 6 oils in dark colored bottles in a cool, dark place. So, remember to eat healthy fat that can be beneficial to your health.