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Good vs. Bad Fats: Part 1

Dr. David Freidson | Posted: Tuesday, October 28, 2014 12:00 pm

This was going to be part 3 of 3 columns on nutrition, but it is now part 3 of 4. The first column was about the Paleo Diet. Paleo is short for Paleolithic which was the period that started 2.5 million years ago and ended about 10,000 years ago with the development of modern agriculture. This diet is also called the “caveman diet.” I summed up why I liked the Paleo way of eating and how it was nutritionally sound because it involved eating low glycemic, or “good” carbohydrates and involved eating “good” fats. The last column went into detail about “good” vs. “bad” carbohydrates. This column was going to be a comprehensive column about “good” vs. “bad” fats. But as I was writing it, there was just too much information for one column, so look for the second part, next month.

Two main types of fats found naturally in food — saturated, and unsaturated. Get your chemistry hat on: a saturated fat has no double bonds between carbon atoms, so it is fully saturated with hydrogen atoms. A saturated fat is basically a straight chain of fatty acid molecules.

An unsaturated fat has at least one double bond. If it has only one double bond then it is a monounsaturated fat and if it has more than one double bond it is a polyunsaturated fat. The double bond in unsaturated fats is called a cis bond, or bent bond. So a molecule of unsaturated fatty acids has one or more bends.

There is another type of fat that is consumed in the American diet and that is a trans fat. Trans fats do not occur naturally, but are created artificially. Trans fats contain one or more double bonds in a trans geometric configuration, or straight configuration.

You really don’t need to know any of the above 3 paragraphs, but I felt a discussion on fats wasn’t complete without explaining a bit about the chemistry.

What you need to know is which are the right fats to eat, and the foods that contain those fats.

Let’s talk about saturated fats. Saturated fats increase your risk of cardiovascular disease — strokes and heart attacks. They increase LDL, or “bad” cholesterol in your body and increase the risk of many types of cancer. You should extremely limit the amount of saturated fats that you eat- this is easier said than done as you’ll see by the list of foods that have high levels of saturated fat, including: cheese, butter, lamb, pepperoni, pork, chocolate, pizza, bacon, ice cream and sausage.

The one point on which I disagree with on the Paleo Diet is that it doesn’t restrict saturated fats. Remember that the Paleo Diet advocates eating what cavemen ate. Cavemen ate the whole animal, including the very fatty pieces of meat. Cavemen didn’t know when they would get their next meal, so they didn’t leave anything to waste. So strict Paleo Diet followers eat the whole piece of chicken, including the fatty skin. I say, just cut off the high saturated fat containing skin and eat the lean meat. From my perspective, it’s common sense — that piece of fat on the end of the prime rib is probably not the best thing for you.

Trans fats are the villain of the fats. Trans fats raise “bad” or LDL cholesterol, and decrease “good” HDL cholesterol. They are found in baked goods, non-dairy creamers, and fried food, and contribute to obesity, high blood pressure, Type 2 Diabetes and increase the risk of heart disease, heart attacks and strokes.

In part 2, I will go over monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats in further detail.

Dr. David Freidson is a licensed chiropractor and works out of the Synergy Health & Rehabilitation office in Wayzata. To learn more, visit www.synergyhealthmn.com or call 952-475-4080.

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