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french-friesEating right is one of the most important things you can do for the health of your body, but sometimes it’s hard to know what’s good for you and what’s not—especially when it comes to a little thing called fats. The most important thing to know here is that not all fats are bad, as many of us have been led to believe. There are, in fact, healthy fats like the Omega-3 fatty acids found in oily fish (along with some nuts, seeds and veggies), but on the same note there are also some not-so-healthy fats—the most notorious of which are trans fats.

Why are Trans Fats so Bad?
Trans fats are essentially unsaturated oils that have been treated with hydrogen so that the oil becomes solid and more stable at room temperature. Many margarines, shortenings, fried foods and processed foods (think baked goods, pizza dough, cookies, crackers and snack foods) are high in trans fats, and studies have shown that these unhealthy fats can wreak havoc on the body. According to the American Heart Association,

“Trans fats raise your bad (LDL) cholesterol levels and lower your good (HDL) cholesterol levels. Eating trans fats increases your risk of developing heart disease and stroke. It’s also associated with a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes.” i

Don’t Trust the Label
Did you know that foods labeled “no trans fat” can legally contain a certain amount of trans fats? It’s true. Manufacturers are allowed to round down anything less than 0.5 g of trans fat—something to keep in mind when you think you’re eating a trans fat-free food. (You could actually be consuming more of these unhealthy fats than you think.) Though new label changes may be on the horizon, to be on the safe side always check your food labels and avoid anything that contains partially hydrogenated oils.

3 Quick Tips for Eating Fats

  1. Eat more monounsaturated fats (found in olive oil) and Omega-3 fats. These unsaturated fats contribute to the fluidity of cell membranes, as well as to the regulation of inflammatory response—all health-promoting actions.
  2. Be sure to eat saturated fats in moderation. Even better, obtain your saturated fats from coconut oil, a medium-chain saturated fat considered a healthy saturated fat due to its shorter chain length and rapid metabolism.
  3. Eat fats along with veggies. A recent study found that the carotenoid nutrients (beta carotene is a carotenoid) found in salads were best absorbed when eaten in combination with monounsaturated fats as opposed to saturated or even polyunsaturated fats. If you’ve been passing on the salad dressing because you want to cut down on fat, you’re better off adding fat—opt for a vinaigrette made with olive oil.

And always remember that fat is a nutrient—not the enemy! Just be sure to choose the right fats.

i http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/FatsAndOils/Fats101/Trans-Fats_UCM_301120_Article.jsp

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baby-closeupThe human body is home to literally trillions of bacteria cells—most of which reside in the gut, where they play a vital role in healthy digestive and immune function. But just where do they come from? We often hear that babies get their first dose of bacteria in the birth canal during delivery, but results of a new study offer a surprising revelation: that a newborn’s first exposure may happen even earlier.

Published last month in the journal Science Translational Medicine, the study suggests babies come into contact with a “small but diverse amount of bacteria” in the placenta—an organ that begins to develop shortly after fertilization and nourishes the developing fetus throughout pregnancy. This is interesting mainly because the mother’s womb was typically believed to be a sterile environment, but now there is evidence of a pre-existing bacterial community within the placenta—and that’s not all.

In looking at more than 300 samples from a combination of vaginal, cesarean, full-term and pre-term births, scientists noticed that the bacteria found in the placentas—roughly a few hundred different types—didn’t look like the bacteria found in the stomachs of the newborn babies. Rather, they resembled the bacterial community in the mouth of the mother. This led scientists to conclude that the mother’s oral bacteria could reach the developing baby via the bloodstream, and to stress the importance of oral health during pregnancy and even before.

So how does this study change things? Essentially, instead of acquiring their first dose of healthy microbes during the birthing process, which was widely thought to be the case, this new information suggests babies may come into contact with those microbes much earlier (i.e. in the placenta)—and that those bacteria may actually play a role in healthy fetal development.

Regardless of when newborns receive their first microbes, supplying additional beneficial bacteria throughout the early years may help promote digestive and immune health—since up to 80 percent of the immune system can be found in the gut. Keep in mind that children encounter constant challenges to their immune and digestive systems while at school and play, and good bacteria can also be depleted by an unhealthy diet and certain medications.‡ A daily probiotic supplement may help promote a healthy balance of intestinal flora to support digestion, and they are considered a safe and gentle way to help support the immune system.‡

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‡These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. The material on this page is for consumer informational and educational purposes only, under section 5 of DSHEA.

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