Test Your Healthy Fats IQ!

Friday, April 29, 2011 | 0 comments »

By Elizabeth Brion

I'm sure you're all too young to remember the 1980s; it's OK, I'll do it for you. One thing I remember is going to the gym and seeing a lot of thin, fit-looking people with dull skin and straw-like, broken-off hair. This was the byproduct of the fat-free craze; some people subsisted only on foods that were engineered to have any naturally occurring fat obliterated. Hard to see how that could go wrong. Eliminating an entire nutrient class will almost always help you lose pounds; it will also, over time, lead to a pretty major nutritional deficit. While it turned out that eating some fat was a good thing, much of the fat in the typical American diet is the wrong kind. Your best bet is to keep your fat intake reasonable and to ingest mostly healthy fats. Which fats are healthy, you ask? Let's find out!
  1. False: To reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease, you should increase your consumption of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. While you do need to monitor your omega-3 intake, omega-6 is probably plentiful in your diet already. An omega-6 to omega-3 ratio of 4:1 to 1:1 reduces cardiovascular disease risk. The typical American diet provides a ratio of 11:1 to 30:1.
  2. True: Peanut oil, canola oil, olive oil, and trans-fat-free margarines are excellent candidates for your healthy-fat-rich lifestyle. Consuming a variety of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated oils or fat spreads will provide the variety of fatty acids, antioxidants, and nutrients that your body requires.
  3. False: Canned and fresh salmon are similarly high-quality sources of omega-3. While 3 ounces of fresh salmon provides 1.9 grams of omega-3, 3 ounces of canned salmon contains only 1 gram.
  4. True: Walnuts, kale, flaxseed, and tofu are excellent vegetarian sources of omega-3. If you're a meat-eater, increasing your omega-3 intake can be as simple as eating more salmon or herring. While these veggie-friendly options may not be as widely touted as our fish friends are for this purpose, they'll do the trick.
  5. True: The risks of a diet too low in fat include hair loss; hard, curly fingernails; and dull, dry skin. If you're thinking you can rock that look, though, here are a few more potential consequences: You can lose cushioning around your internal organs; your body may lose its ability to regulate temperature; and you may find yourself hungry more often because you're missing the fats that typically slow the absorption of nutrients into your system. You'll also lose out if you suffer from depression, arthritis, or certain autoimmune diseases; essential fatty acids help with all of these conditions. I'm guessing that if you've adopted an extremely low-fat diet, these were not among your goals. Let's all pour a tiny cup of fish or flaxseed oil and toast to new, healthy habits!