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Find out which fats are good, bad for you

March 1, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
You may view fat as the nemesis to your diet, but it's actually a necessary component. But how do you eat it and still stay trim?

Even if you inherit your family's large frame and a slow metabolism, Dr. Felicia Stoler, author of "Living Skinny in Fat Genes," says our girth has much more to do with super-sized portions and a comfortable environment.

"Unfortunately right now we can't really say that we're overweight because of our genes," said Stoler. "We're slowing down and moving a lot less. So it's basic physics - energy in versus energy out."

How much we move, the amount of energy or calories and type of calories consumed plays a role in our health.

Recommended are lean proteins, whole grains, colorful produce and heart-healthy fats known as monounsaturates -- what you get in olive oil, avocado, hummus and nuts.

Another good fat choice is polyunsaturates, such as corn, canola, sunflower oil and the much publicized omega-3 fatty acids.

The vegetable oils have a higher smoke point, which makes them a good cooking choice and omega-3 fats have been widely publicized as heart-healthy. Omega-3 coming from fatty fish is beneficial for brain function as well.

Trans fat is the bad boy -- mostly chemically-altered vegetable oil solid at room temperature and also bad for your heart. Manufacturers are slowly using less of them, but you'll find trans fat in mostly processed foods. Remember, less is best here.

Saturated fat, mainly from animal products and also solid at room temp, raises blood cholesterol. Although coconut, a saturated oil, has received kudos in the past few years for reducing inflammation in the body.

But what you may not know is that palm fruit oil, not palm kernel oil, has some merit.

"It has tocotrienols in it, which is a form of vitamin E. It has beta carotene in it as well. There's research being shown that tocotrienols can help prevent brain damage in the case of when somebody has a stroke.

Studies on tropical oils coconut and palm, which were once demonized in the '70s and '80s, have received recent kudos for certain health properties and are edging slowly back on the menu. But remember all fats contain a good amount of calories for a small amount of food, so consume in petite portions.

"Living Skinny in Fat Genes" can be found on Amazon.