Eating 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
By now you probably know a thing or two about probiotics, right? Of the trillions of bacteria in your body, probiotics are the good guys—the beneficial microbes that help balance your intestinal flora and maintain your health.‡ But just how good are they? And where do they come from? Here are 9 fun and interesting facts you may not know about these good-for-you bacteria:
- You have roughly 10 times more bacterial cells than human cells in your body (over 100 trillion), and all together they weigh about 4 pounds—that’s the weight of a brick!
- While most of your bacterial cells reside in the gut, where up to 80 percent of your immune system can be found, there are actually bacteria throughout your body in your mouth, nose, stomach and even your armpits.
- Each person has a unique bacterial environment (like a thumbprint) that new research reveals may begin to develop inside the womb.
- Studies show there are over 1,000 different probiotic strains living in the human body. Bifidobacteria are most prevalent in the large intestine (colon), while Lactobacilli are the most prevalent good bacteria in the small intestine as well as the urogenital tract.
- Probiotics support healthy immune function by priming the immune system to properly respond to what passes through the digestive tract.‡
- Probiotics can be found naturally in fermented foods such as yogurt, kefir, cottage cheese and sauerkraut, and our ancestors were consuming fermented foods as far back as 10,000 years ago.
- Your good bacteria help your body absorb valuable nutrients from your food during the digestive process.‡
- Gut bacteria play an important role in manufacturing needed vitamins, including vitamin A, vitamin B12 and vitamin K.‡
Outside factors such as stress, poor diet and the use of certain medications (including antibiotics) can deplete the number of good bacteria in the gut, but taking a daily probiotic supplement has been shown to help restore a healthy internal balance.‡