By Monique N. Gilbert
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 types 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. Trans fat comes from hydrogenated vegetable
oils, like margarine and vegetable shortening. Both saturated fats and trans fats stay
solid at room temperature.
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
type 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 in 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
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 from 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 the 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
Copyright © Monique N. Gilbert - All Rights Reserved.
Monique N. Gilbert, B.Sc., is a Health Advocate, Certified Personal Trainer/Fitness
Counselor, Recipe Developer, Soy Food Connoisseur and Freelance Writer. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org