Monday, June 15, 2015

Fats come in many forms - use wisely

Low-fat?  No-fat?
photo credit: Little Baby's Ice Cream
Fats. They're like the Devil for many people trying to lose weight.

In our consumer economy, Low-Fat, Fat-Free, and Light options abound, never mind that the product now contains more sugar, flour, or thickeners to recreate some semblance of the texture and flavor of the original product.

Happily for all of us, recent research has shown that certain types of dietary fat can actually improve our health and has led to changes in nutritional guidelines for fats.

For one, fats are a major source of energy, and they help our bodies moderate digestion and absorption of sugars and some vitamins and minerals.

In fact, the American Heart Association and Center for Disease Control recommend our daily diets comprise up to 25-35% fats. This sounds like a lot, but don't reach for that steak, doughnut, or cookies & cream ice cream just yet.

The vast majority of fats we consume should be unsaturated ("healthy") fats, the kind found in plant foods and fish ----- think nuts and seeds, plant oils (minus coconut and palm oils), avocados, and oily fish like sardines or salmon. These fats help circulation and lower our risk for heart disease. Nuts and seeds are high not only in unsaturated fats, but also in fiber, antioxidants, certain vitamins, and omega-3 fatty acids, which help circulation and lower our risk for heart disease.

image credit: CheapProteinDiscountCodes
Up to 10% of our daily diets can be saturated fats --- the ones from animal-derived foods, such as meat and dairy, as well as those solid-forming palm and coconut oils. This works out to roughly 150 calories of your 1,500-calorie diet gets to be the saturated fat from that steak or ice cream.

With no nutritional value and no safe level of consumption set by medical experts, Trans-fats are the bad boys of fats.

Adding hydrogen molecules to liquid unsaturated fats turns them into "partially hydrogenated vegetable oils" -- or Trans-fats. These near clones of saturated fats are more solid, and stable, spread easily, and last longer on shelves than than healthier fats, but they are linked to chronic inflammation and a host of chronic diseases.

OK, OK, you might say, I'll eat nuts. But how does this translate into actual amounts eaten or percentages of my diet that get to be fat?  Here is a quick answer from the CDC.

This infographic from the Hello Healthy blog on MyFitnessPal shows it visually – Avoid Trans, Limit Saturated, and Enjoy some Unsaturated fats.

Infographic by Kim Steinhilber from Hello Healthy | The MyFitnessPal Blog.

Learn more

How much fat should we eat?

How to include fats in your diet (and see the infographic)

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