The mere sound of the word FAT sends a surge of anxiety through the minds of millions. Why is that? Well, aside from not wanting the increase in body size and bulges in places we do not want, there is the number one killer in America that claims the lives of thousands each year. That would be Heart Disease, Stroke, several types of Cancers, Type 2 Diabetes and a host of other over consumption of fat related issues.

OK, we know that unhealthy fats increase cholesterol levels, which is a known risk factor for heart disease. But we also know that not all fats are created equal. We do need certain types of fats to keep healthy, increase energy and maintain healthy skin and hair. Fat is important in a well balanced diet and should remain a part of your nutritional plan.

When you go to your doctor to have your cholesterol levels checked, and I do recommend that everyone do this before starting a new fitness and nutritional regimen, there are three important levels that should be checked in your blood workup. They are your Triglycerides, LDL and HDL levels. Triglycerides are the major form of fat. A triglyceride consists of three molecules of fatty acid combined with a molecule of the alcohol glycerol. Triglycerides serve as the backbone of many types of lipids (fats). Triglycerides come from the food we eat as well as from being produced by the body. LDL stands for low-density lipoprotein, this is the unhealthy cholesterol. HDL stands for high-density lipoprotein, this is the healthy cholesterol.

Now that you have some understanding of good and bad fat, lets discuss where the sources of these fats come from so we know which foods to eat and which foods to avoid. Unsaturated Fats are considered healthy fats because they contain Essential Fatty Acids that the body cannot produce on it's own. Those EFAs also lower LDL cholesterol levels and are rich in antioxidents which protect against cancer and heart disease. They can be found mainly in plant and some seafood sources. They are liquid at room temperature. Unsaturated fats are broken down into two categories, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated, these types of fats are essential. In order to get these healthy fats we need to consume them in the food we eat. This type of fat helps to keep our arteries flexible and can prevent sticky plaque from forming in the arteries which leads to Atherosclerosis and heart attacks. Healthy unsaturated fats can also be found in olive oil, flaxseed oil, some soy products, olives, nuts (like raw walnuts and almonds), seeds, natural nut butters, avocados, salmon, tuna, sardines and other coldwater fish. The ever important Omega-3 and Omega-6 polyunsaturated fats are also found in many of these same sources. The Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids help reduce appetite, elevate mood, decrease inflammation, increase energy and mental clarity. I recommend 30 to 50 grams of healthy fat per day.

On to the bad fats. They have names like Saturated fat and Trans fat or Trans Fatty Acids and are used as a preservative in a process called hydrogenation where soybean or vegetable oils are heated and hydrogen is added along with a metal catalyst like cobalt or nickel which alters the chemical composition in order to make it a solid and renders it useless and toxic to the human body. Sounds lovely doesn't it? Anyway, Trans fats have 15 times more risk for causing heart disease than even Saturated fats do. Some of the sources for Saturated fats are pork, beef, dairy products like cheese, palm kernel and coconut oils. If you can't imagine never eating animal products again, then choose low fat dairy products and extra lean cuts of beef, turkey and poultry. Food for thought: One 12 oz steak comes with a whopping 75 grams of Saturated fat, while one portion of skinless chicken breasts has only 2 grams of Saturated fat. One gram of fat is equal to 9 calories.

This is where learning to read the “Nutrition Facts” labels on the food you buy is going to come in handy for controlling the amount and type of fat you are putting into your body.

Remember if you do not want to spend your life trying to find ways to burn off that excess fat, then do not eat it in the first place.  But if it is already too late for that then it is time to call me.

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