Contrary to public belief, not all fats that we consume are bad. Similar to our lesson in complex carbohydrates and added sugars, the key is to be able to distinguish the “good” from the “bad,” as well as to learn ways to select leaner food products more wisely and to moderate our total daily fat intake.
The fats that are considered “bad” are the saturated and trans-fatty acids, which are both associated with raising LDL cholesterol (Whitney & Rolfes, 2005, pg 159). An elevated level of LDL cholesterol is linked with artherosclerosis, a plaque formation in arterial walls that causes stiffening and the loss of elasticity in their smooth muscle (Marieb & Hoehn, 2007, pg 980). Plaque formations not only pose increased risk for stroke and heart attack, but they also cause a narrowing of the blood flow through arterial vessels and raise blood pressure (Whitney & Rolfes, 2005, pg 159). In order to prevent the potential for such a trickle down, domino effect towards increasing one’s likelihood for cardiovascular disease, we can intentionally try to avoid intake of food sources that contain saturated fats, such as: whole milk, butter, cheese, fatty cuts of beef and pork, and tropical coconut and palm oils; in addition to products containing trans fats, including: vegetable shortening, margarine, imitation cheese, and meat and dairy products (Whitney & Rolfes, 2005, pg 159). Baked goods, fried foods, and snack chips may also include trans-fats in their ingredients or cooking method. Considerable reduction, replacement, or complete omission of these “bad” fats from the diet could make a significant difference in preventing these deadly heart diseases.
Conversely, the monounsaturated fats (in olive, canola and peanut oils; avocados) and polyunsaturated fats (in vegetable oils, including: safflower, sesame, soy, corn, and sunflower; nuts and seeds) are considered “good” (Whitney & Rolfes, 2005, pg 160). Though more research is needed, the general diet among people residing in the Mediterranean region has caught notice, because of their lower rates of heart disease and high consumption of foods containing monounsaturated fats, specifically olive oil (Whitney & Rolfes, 2005, pg 160). According to the American Heart Association (2008), the Mediterranean diet typically includes:
• high consumption of fruits, vegetables, bread and other cereals, potatoes,...