One bad meal won't make you fat just like one good meal won't make you skinny. If you are fat, then you are a nutritional over achiever in more ways than one. Obesity as they say is the penalty for gluttony and sloth, but it is misleading and misconceived on so many levels.
Since time immemorial, nutritionists and health authorities have preached the benefits of a low-fat diet as the key to losing weight, keeping your cholesterol under check as well as maintaining good health. Despite so much debate and discussion, ultimately "fat" isn't always the culprit in the waistline wars. The fact is that more than just the amount of fat, it is actually the type of fat you eat that ultimately matters.
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Monounsaturated fats and Polyunsaturated fats: They areconsidered as "good fats" because they are good for your heart, cholesterol levels and your overall health. Good fats such as omega-3 fats are essential to physical and emotional health. Examples of monounsaturated fats include olive oil, canola oil, sunflower oil, peanut oil, sesame oil, olives, and nuts such as almonds, peanuts, hazel nuts etc. Safflower oil, soybean oil, corn oil, flaxseeds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, and fishes such as salmon, tuna, mackerel etc are rich sources of polyunsaturated fats.
Saturated fats and trans fats: These are known as the "bad fats" because they increase your risk of cardiovascular disease and elevate cholesterol levels. High-fat cuts of meat such as beef, lamb, pork; dairy produce such as full fat milk and cream; butter, cheese, ghee, lard etc are examples of saturated fats. Examples of trans fats include margarine, vegetable shortening, commercially-baked pastries, cookies, doughnuts, muffins, fried food such as chicken nuggets, breaded fish etc.
Recent studies have shown that short-term modest weight gains in healthy, normal weight young adults was associated with more bad cholesterol levels in those who ate muffins cooked using saturated oil, whereas individuals who ate muffins made with polyunsaturated oils had improved blood cholesterol levels.
Researchers from Sweden conducted a double blind, parallel-group, randomized controlled trial study in 39 adults (average age 27) for about seven weeks. This study was primarily funded by the Swedish Research Council.
The study participants were made to eat three muffins each day made with either unsaturated sunflower or saturated palm oil, with the aim that the participants would gain about 3 percent of their body weight during the study. All muffins had identical ingredients, except for the fat that was used was either sunflower oil rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) or palm oil rich in saturated fatty acids (SFA).
During the course of the study, the participants continued their normal diet and physical activity levels and the number of muffins was either added or subtracted according to the weight gained by each individual. The muffins eaten by the participants were quite high in carbohydrates and sugar, but it was seen that only those muffins which were made using saturated oils raised some cholesterol concerns.
At the end of the study duration, it was seen that all participants had a comparable weight gain and the average weight gain for both groups was about 2.2 percent. The group who ate the muffins made with unsaturated oil reportedly had lower levels of low-density lipoproteins (LDL- bad cholesterol) levels as well as a lower ratio between total cholesterol and high-density lipoproteins (HDL-good cholesterol), and also other positive indicators of cardiovascular health. When compared, the LDL levels reportedly differed by 9 percent and the overall cholesterol/HDL cholesterol ratio differed as much as 18 percent between the two groups.
Ulf Risérus, M.D., Ph.D., principal investigator and associate professor of Clinical Nutrition and Metabolism at Uppsala University, in Uppsala, Sweden commented "Even in early adulthood, it is important to avoid high-calorie foods and weight gain, but also it is important to consume sufficient amounts of polyunsaturated fats from non-hydrogenated vegetable oils. The lowering of the cholesterol/HDL cholesterol ratio by polyunsaturated fat is of special interest because recent large studies have shown this ratio seems to predict heart disease risk even better than LDL levels alone."
He further added "That the effects were seen in less than two months on a high-calorie diet that was high in fat and some sugars is also important. These short-term metabolic adverse changes might help explain why some overweight people are at higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease in the long-term."
Researchers said the results of the study have valuable implications for many people who gain weight due to excess calorie intake from both sugars and fats and lack of physical activity. The term "fit and fat" has been used for those obese individuals who despite being fat are physically fit and they actually may be at lower disease risk than a lean but sedentary person. The study clearly shows that gaining weight on a high-calorie diet which is higher in polyunsaturated fat produces a slightly more metabolically favorable weight gain, as compared to the weight gain by consuming saturated fats.
Risérus, who believes the effects of a high-saturated fat diet are fully reversible, further added "Studies using these oils in weight-stable participants have demonstrated that the adverse effects on LDL seems to disappear shortly after they stop consuming foods with saturated fats, and this may also be the case here. Such data would be important to encourage people who gained weight to lose their weight and lower their metabolic risk."
The study demonstrated that the excess energy from polyunsaturated fatty acids reduced atherogenic lipoproteins compared with saturated fatty acids in healthy young adults. The researchers strongly believe that the hyperproinsulinemia and increased biomarkers of endothelial dysfunction which happened due to weight gain could be partially offset by the lipid-lowering effects of polyunsaturated fatty acids.
This study was published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.
Tips for Choosing Healthy Fats
• Do not totally give up fat in your diet in an effort to lose weight, but try and replace trans fats and saturated fats with good fats. This might mean just a little change in your diet plan such replacing fried chicken with baked skinless chicken, adding fresh fish rich in omega 3 fatty acids, eating beans and legumes, and replacing ghee/butter with heart healthy olive oil.
• When grocery shopping, always read the food labels and check for the amount of trans fats before you buy a product. Limit your intake of fast food and try and avoid commercially-baked goods. Home baked goodies are always the best since you have the liberty to make healthy choices while baking.
• Include omega-3 fatty acids such as fish, walnuts, ground flax seeds, flaxseed oil, canola oil, and soybean oil etc in your diet everyday
• Cut back on your intake of red meat and full-fat dairy products as these are rich in saturated fats. Substitute red meat with beans, nuts, poultry and fish whenever possible. Replace whole milk and other full-fat dairy foods with lower fat versions.
To promote health and well being, the answer isn't in cutting out the fat totally from your diet, but it's learning to make healthy choices and to replace bad fats with good ones. Healthy fats play vital role in helping you manage your moods, stay mentally fit, fight fatigue and control your weight. So in your constant endeavor to stay healthy, stop worrying about what you have to lose and start focusing on what you have to gain!
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