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    • Dietary fat, especially saturated fat, has been considered unhealthy for the past several decades
    • New research shows the cardiovascular risks of eating saturated fat may be overblown
    • Certain types of saturated fats might actually be good for you
    • Balance the amount—and the type—of fats you eat for a healthy diet

    It impacts cholesterol.

    But not in the way you think. What really matters: the ratio of LDL to HDL. The higher your HDL (the protective cholesterol), the better.

    Saturated fat raises LDL, but it also raises HDL and lowers triglycerides, says Ludwig.

    Not all LDL is alike.

    Emerging research suggests there are two kinds of LDL particles: big, fluffy particles that protect against heart disease, and small, dense particles that may create inflammation and blockage.

    The source of sat fat is key.

    We now know that not all saturated fats behave the same in the body.

    Full-fat dairy and dark chocolate are full of sat fats but don’t raise the risk for cardiovascular disease.

    It helps control weight.

    In fact, David Ludwig, M.D., Ph.D., a professor of nutrition at the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health claims we should eat more fat in general and far fewer processed carbs for our health and waistlines. “When you consider white bread and butter, the bread is the less healthful component,” he says. After conducting research for 20 years, he created a weight-loss program outlined in his 2016 book, Always Hungry?

     In a pilot test, the average weight loss over 16 weeks was 20 pounds, with some ranging to 30. “Since the program is not calorie-restricted, we also think the results will be more sustainable,” he adds.

    The plan calls for a diet that’s 50 percent fat in the first two weeks, with 25 percent each for carbs and protein. Then the level falls to about 40 percent fat, depending on the person.

    Perhaps not coincidentally, that is where the average American fat intake stood before the vilification of fats, and especially saturated fat, that began in the ’70s—and before the obesity epidemic.

    Hard to Process

    Peer into most people cupboards and you’ll find them: bottles of corn, soybean, and canola oils. These polyunsaturated oils are hugely popular and marketed as healthy, particularly when compared with butter. They also contain large amounts of omega-6 fatty acids. Those are a good thing, right? Not so fast.

    Omega-6s are something of an evil twin to omega-3s, the heart-healthy fats in fish and olive oil.

    We do need a bit of omega-6 in our diets, but we now take in vastly more than we did a century or so ago—thanks to all that processed vegetable oil—and recent research suggests it may promote heart disease rather than protect against it.

    Striking A Healthy Balance

    Experts have long suggested that the “French paradox”—the fact that people in that country eat more saturated fats than we do, yet live longer and have much less heart disease and obesity—is due to their way of life: They cook more and are more active (not necessarily gym workouts, just walking).

    And though their food is often high in fat (think duck a l’orange), it’s served in smaller portions and eaten in a leisurely way.

    They rarely count calories or fat grams. That same moderation should inform your own diet. Here’s how to start:

    Choose whole, “real” foods over those that come packaged.

    Processed foods, even those with “no trans fats!” labels, tend to be high in polyunsaturated fats.

    Limit eating out.

    And not just because of huge portions: The restaurant industry relies heavily on polyunsaturated oils and also typically uses high heats. That causes the oils to oxidize and even creates trans-fatty acids; both raise heart disease risk.

    Don’t obsess over counting fat grams.

    Eat a variety of foods (some meats, balanced out with lots of fish and non-animal sources of protein like legumes), and plenty of vegetables. If you’re eating enough fat, you’ll be naturally satiated.

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