Good Fats and Bad Fats – Oh My!
I often get questions on what is the difference between Cholesterol, Lipids, Fats, Triglycerides, LDL, and HDL. These terms are constantly thrown around in the media with out clear explanation. This just seems to lead to more confusion. Let me help by making it as simple as possible.
Cholesterol is not a fat. It is the raw material for cell membranes to function properly and is used by cells to produce critical hormones for the body to function including estrogen, testosterone, cortisol to name a few. Cholesterol is broken up into two forms: “bad” cholesterol, which is also known as LDL (low-density lipoprotein) and “good” cholesterol, which is also known as HDL (high-density lipoprotein). Now let me make it clear that neither is truly “bad’ or “good”. Both are need for cellular health. They only cause problems when they are outside the optimal measurable levels.
Optimal cholesterol levels:
- Total cholesterol – 160 to 180.
- LDL – less than 80.
- HDL – higher than 60.
Another common terminology you will hear is triglycerides levels. Triglycerides are free-floating fats in the blood and rise after eating a meal.
- Total triglycerides should be less than 150.
- Optimal levels are less than 100.
Fats are further broken up into two categories: unsaturated and saturated.
Unsaturated fats are generally considered “good” fats. They come in several varieties and must be consumed in the right balance for optimal health. There are two types of unsaturated fats:
There are two crucial groups of poly-unsaturated fats:
- Omega-3 fats – found in salmon, sardines, halibut, scallops, shrimp, tuna, tofu, soybeans, walnuts, organic eggs, and flaxseed.
- Omega-6 fats – primarily found in liquid vegetable oils and a variety of nuts.
The typical unhealthy Western diet of (fried foods, processed foods, and excess red meats), provides a ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fats of 25 to 1. It should be 1 to 4. While we need some Omega-6 fats to live, in excess they promote inflammation in the body and lead to several chronic diseases. On the other hand, research suggests Omega-3 fats counter inflammation.
Reported in the Sept. 12, 2012 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers found Omega-3 poly-unsaturated fatty acid supplementation does not appear to reduce the risk of cardiovascular or cerebrovascular events. This came after an extensive review of 20 randomized clinical trials that included more than 68,000 patients. Even though there may be no clear cardiovascular benefit from prescribing Omega-3 supplements, aside from helping to reduce triglyceride and cholesterol levels, a heart-healthy and plant-based diet along with Omega-3 rich poly-unstaturated fats still seems to contribute to a improved health.
Saturated fats are bad when eaten in excess and contribute to type II diabetes, obesity, and heart disease, in addition to many other diseases. When at body temperature, saturated fats are sticky and cause red blood cells to clump together, preventing them from carrying oxygen to the cells of our organs. Whereas, unsaturated fats are liquid at body temperature and don’t cause this problem. Foods that are high in saturated fats include red meat, whole milk dairy products, and the skin of chickens.
Transfats are unsafe in any amount. Transfats are made by Commercial foods manufacturers in laboratories. Transfats are in margarine and various hydrogenated vegetable oils commonly used in fast foods and most factory-baked goods. These fake fats inhibit the body’s detoxification process, decrease testosterone levels, increase heart disease, obesity and diabetes. Transfats are more damaging than saturated fats because they raise “bad” LDL cholesterol and lower our “good” HDL cholesterol.
DeliverLean diet delivery meals are prepared with only the healthy unsaturated fats. We never use transfats or processed foods. Let us do the cooking for your heart-healthy meals so you can achieve and maintain optimum health.