Certain fats should be part of your healthy diet. They can lower your risk of disease and helps give the necessary energy required for the body. It is also used to protect nerve tissue, produce hormones and control inflammation. It helps body absorb vitamins A, D, E and K from the food we eat.
But consuming too much can contribute to obesity. We should make sure that we are eating “good” fats instead of “bad” ones. Calories from fats turns body over weight more easily than carbohydrates or proteins. It can confuse your appetite, so we can’t tell when we are full. Some also raise your total cholesterol and blood pressure, and may increase your risk of some cancers, heart disease and diabetes.
How much is too much?
Fat contains 9 calories per gram – more than twice the calories of carbohydrates and protein, which have 4 calories per gram. Everyone has different calorie needs. Your doctor can help you figure out how many calories you need and how many of these can come from proteins and carbohydrates.
If you are overweight, the American Heart Association recommends that you get less than 30% of your total calories from fat. So, if your body needs 2,000 calories a day, you can have up to 65 grams of fat each day.
What are “bad” fats?
Saturated fat is usually found in animal products, such as meat, poultry, eggs and dairy products such as cheese, cream and whole or 2% milk. Palm, coconut and other tropical oils, as well as cocoa butter, also contain saturated fat. Many snack foods, such as desserts, chips and French fries, are high in saturated type. Such a diet can increase your LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels and can put you at risk for heart disease.
Trans fats are a type of hydrogenated, man-made fat usually found in processed foods, such as cookies, cakes, doughnuts, crackers, snacks and frozen foods, and in fried food, such as French fries and onion rings. This type is especially bad for you. It lowers your HDL (“good”) cholesterol while raising your LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and triglycerides. All food manufacturers are now required to list trans fat on nutrition labels. However, foods can have up to 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving and still be labeled as zero amount present. To avoid them completely, check the ingredients list and avoid partially hydrogenated oils. The American Heart Association recommends that you get less than 7% of your total calories from saturated type and less than 1% from trans fats. So, if your body needs 2,000 calories a day, you should eat less than 15 grams of saturated fat and less than 2 grams of trans fat.
What are good fats?
Monounsaturated fats are found in canola, olive, avocado, and peanut and other nut oils, as well as in legumes (dried beans and peas), olives, seeds, nuts, nut butters and fresh avocados.
Polyunsaturated fats are found in vegetable oils like corn, sunflower and safflower oil, as well as sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, corn, soybeans, and many other kinds of grains, legumes, nuts and seeds.
Omega-3 fatty acids are usually found in seafood, such as salmon, herring, sardines and mackerel. They can also be found in flaxseeds, flaxseed oil and walnuts.
Studies have shown that these fats, if used in place of saturated ones, can help you lower your total cholesterol level. Omega-3 is especially beneficial—studies have shown that it can also decrease your risk of inflammation or heart attack if you are at risk for heart disease.
Tips for a healthy diet
You don’t have to cut all fat out of your diet, but you should limit the amount you eat. Try to eat foods made with unsaturated fat and avoid foods that are high in saturated and trans fats. Other things you can do include:
a) Avoid fast food.
b) Limit the amount of red meat you eat. Instead, try to eat baked or broiled fish, poultry and vegetable proteins
c) Use canola oil when you are baking.
d) Use olive oil when you are cooking, for salad dressings and as a spread on bread.
e) Make healthier snack choices. For example, snack on a small handful of unsalted peanuts or edamame (soy beans) instead of potato chips.
f) Try a slice of avocado on your sandwich or in your salad, or add nuts or garbanzo beans to a salad.
g) Use liquid or soft tub margarine instead of butter. Look for margarine that has low saturated and/or no trans fat.
It is highly essential to take notice of the food we consume along with the quantity and quality of the same. While a lot is hyped about how fats are bad for health, it is imperative to realize the difference between the needed and those which are not.