So long, trans fat. The Food and Drug Administration has decided to ban this artery-clogging substance from foods, calling it unsafe for consumption and a major public health concern. Proven to contribute to diabetes, high cholesterol, and heart disease, trans fat has been under fire for more than a decade, and many food manufacturers and restaurants have already ousted it. But a government-ordered phaseout is another huge step in a healthier direction. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention claims that further decreasing the amount of trans fat Americans consume can prevent 20,000 heart attacks and 7,000 deaths every year.
Even though the ban's been set in motion, it'll take years before trans fat goes away completely. So it's up to you to know where it is, as well as how to distinguish it from other fat types. Trans is just one of many dietary fats, which vary significantly in how bad – or how good – they are for the body. While some kinds, like trans fat, are basically heart-harming garbage, other fats are very healthy, even necessary for the body to function properly – as long as you don't overindulge. But it isn't easy to differentiate between the many different types of fat. Here's your guide.
Polyunsaturated fats are very similar to monounsaturated. They're abundant in many plant-based foods, and consuming them in moderation helps keep cholesterol and blood sugar in line. In fact, our body needs polyunsaturated fats, but it can't produce them on its own, as it does with other kinds of fat. So we need to get them from food.
There are two types of polyunsaturated fat: omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids. Soybean, corn, and safflower oil are especially solid sources of omega-6s. Since so many processed foods are made with these oils, omega-6s have become much more abundant in the standard American diet than omega-3s. Rich sources of omega-3s include walnuts, flaxseeds, organic milk, and cold-water fish such as salmon, mackerel, and herring.
There's been some controversy over whether omega-6s are actually good for you or if they cause inflammation, but most health experts now agree that they're beneficial – although you need to consume roughly an equal amount of omega-3s, which too few people do since they aren't as ubiquitous. Doctors are realizing more and more that upping your omega-3 intake has countless benefits beyond protecting your heart. Studies show that these essential fatty acids may help stave off Alzheimer's, cancer, autoimmune diseases, and more.
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