Get the Facts on Fat
Fat is one of the three molecules known as macronutrients, which provide the human body energy. It provides 9 calories per gram, which is more than twice the calories per gram of either carbohydrate or protein (4kcal/g). Fat typically gets a bad rap when it comes to healthy eating, however it is an important part of a healthy diet!
Fat is necessary for insulating the body to maintain proper temperature, is primary to digestion, and is vital for transportation and absorption of fat-soluble vitamins and phytochemicals. Fat-free diets may lead to essential fatty acid deficiencies and eventually death if the missing nutrient is not provided. This month’s goal is to help you understand how to include fats and oils into a well-balanced diet for optimum health outcomes.
A nutritious eating plan doesn't mean cutting out all fat, just focusing on healthier varieties. The general goal is for 20 percent to 35 percent of your total daily calories to come from healthy fats, such as polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, and fewer than 10 percent of calories per day from saturated fats.
Saturated fats are solid at room temperature like butter or the fat inside or around meat. Saturated fats are most often found in animal products such as beef, pork, and chicken. Leaner animal products, such as chicken breast or pork loin, often have less saturated fat. Although coconut oil is semifluid at room temperature, coconut oil is high in saturated fat. Saturated fats may cause blood cholesterol levels to rise. They promote the buildup of fatty deposits in your arteries which increases your risk of developing heart disease, heart attack, and stroke.
Cut back on foods containing saturated fat including:
· Desserts and baked goods, such as cakes, cookies, donuts, pastries, and croissants
· Cheeses and foods containing cheese, such as pizza
· Sausages, hot dogs, bacon, and ribs
· Ice cream and other dairy desserts
· Fried potatoes (French fries) – if fried in a saturated fat or hydrogenated oil
· Regular ground beef and cuts of meat with visible fat
· Fried chicken and other chicken dishes with the skin
· Whole milk and full-fat dairy foods
Monounsaturated fats and Polyunsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature like the oil on top of a salad dressing or in a can of tuna. Unsaturated fat typically comes from plant sources such as olives, nuts, soybeans or seeds such as sunflower, flax, and chia seeds – but unsaturated fat is also present in fish. Unsaturated fats are usually called oils. They provide essential fatty acids and vitamin E.
Sources of Monounsaturated Fats Include:
· Nuts • Oils • Avocado • Peanut Butter
Polyunsaturated fats are also liquid at room temperature. Polyunsaturated fats are essential fats, meaning they're required for normal body functions but your body can't make them. You must get them from food. Polyunsaturated fats are used to build cell membranes and the covering of nerves. They are needed for blood clotting, muscle movement, and decreasing inflammation. They can also help lower cholesterol levels which improves heart health.
There are two main types of polyunsaturated fats: omega-3 fatty acids and omega-6 fatty acids.
Sources of Omegas:
· Fatty Fish: Include fish high in omega-3 fats at least twice per week. For example, salmon,
herring, sardines, lake trout, and Atlantic or Pacific mackerel.
· Flaxseed: Your body cannot break down whole flaxseeds to access the omega-3-containing
oil, so to get the health benefits, select ground flaxseed. Add it to breakfast cereal, yogurt, baked goods including breads and muffins or mixed dishes and casseroles.
· Chia seeds: These small seeds are packed with nutrients. In addition to omega-3s, they
contain protein, dietary fiber and vitamins and minerals. Toss them in in your cereal, smoothie, salads and even baked goods.
· Hemp seeds
· Eggs: Some chickens are given feed that is high in omega-3s so their eggs will contain more
as well. When buying eggs, check the package label for omega-3 content.
Some people may benefit from an Omega Fatty Acid supplement, but be sure to discuss it first with a health care provider.
Trans Fats are chemically hydrogenated margarine, shortening, commercial frying fats, high fat baked goods, and salty snacks containing these snacks. These have a negative effect on human health due to their influence on membrane function. Many studies suggest that higher intakes of trans-fatty acids are associated with increased risk for coronary heart disease, cancer, and other chronic disease (including type 2 diabetes and allergies). They are currently being significantly limited in the American food production system, and should be avoided as able.
In conclusion: Eating more unsaturated fat than saturated and trans fats can reduce your risk of heart disease, improve “good” (HDL) cholesterol levels, and improve absorption of fat-soluble nutrients. Replace foods high in saturated and trans fat such as butter, whole milk, high fat meats, and baked goods with foods higher in unsaturated fat found in plants and fish, such as vegetable oils, nuts, avocado, and tuna fish. These simple swaps will help you fuel your body with the best kinds of fats, and maximize the benefits of this nutrient-dense macronutrient.