If you've lived long enough, you know eating fat (from food sources) has gone from the low to high and everywhere in between - which is why I'm not a fan of diets. But the great news is that most nutrition experts agree that for the generally healthy - healthy fat is IN and likely here to stay! But the key is to know which ones to power up and which ones to power down to live long and strong.
Fat is essential for:
* Protection of internal organs
* Energy production
* Transporting fat soluble vitamins (A,D,E,K)
* Healthy skin and hair
* Supplying essential fat linoleic acid
* In Food, fat provides taste, consistency, and stability and helps you feel full.
But...you don't need to eat a lot of it because a little goes a long way. Fat has 9 calories/gram vs. Carbs and Protein which have 4 calories/gram. Notice that is more than twice =). It's also important to focus on the healthier types of fat.
I'll break it down from worst to best =).
TRANS FAT - The Worst hands down!
What is it?
A trans fat is made when money-focused food manufacturers add hydrogen to vegetable oil--a process called hydrogenation. This process turns liquid oils into solid fats like shortening and hard margarine.
Trans fats are inexpensive and increase the shelf life and flavor stability of foods containing these fats. In other words - because it saves and makes food manufacturers money =).
Where is it?
Trans fat can be found in vegetable shortenings, some margarines, crackers, cookies, snack foods, and other foods made with or fried in partially hydrogenated oils.
What's the Problem?
Trans fat, like saturated fat and dietary cholesterol, raises the LDL (lousy) cholesterol that increases your risk for Coronary Heart Disease =(.
And there's more, Trans fats...
* Increase inflammation in the body which increases your cravings for snack-y fat-storing foods.
* Are indigestible and irritate the liver
* NEWS FLASH - Are banned in much of Europe. Hmmmm...
Action Step: Be a Radical Label Reader and avoid any foods with the word "hydrogenated" in it.
Moving down the worst to best list....
Where is it?
Saturated Fat is naturally ocurring and is found primarily in animal sources - meat, poultry, fish, dairy products et al. Of the animal sources, red meat and whole dairy products have the highest concentration.
What's the Problem?
Higher levels of saturated fat are linked to raised LDL (lousy) cholesterol levels, Tye 2 Diabetes and Cardiovascular Disease =(.
Action Step: Limit your intake of Saturated fat - especially red meat and full fat dairy. And when you do eat red meat and dairy - look for lean cuts and lower fat options.
Meatless Mondays anyone? Swap out some of your staple meat options for a tasty vegetarian dish with protein rich beans, grains, nuts or seeds. It's possible for your health to thrive without meat, but if the thought paralyzes you, then the first step is to reduce and replace =).
Moving on to the Healthier Sources...
MONOUNSATURATED FATS (aka MUFA's)
MUFA's are derived from predominantly plant-based sources:
Examples: Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Expeller Pressed Canola Oil, Peanut Oil, Avocado Oil
*Linked to reduce LDL (lousy) cholesterol without affecting the beneficial HDL’s (healthy).
*Help contribute Vitamin E (an important antioxidant) to the diet
Action Step: Lightly drizzle a little Extra Virgin Olive Oil to flavor your green leafy goodness salads or veggies (especially roasted - yum!) or add 1/4 avocado to any meal to flavor punch, keep you fuller longer and to live heart healthy.
And last but not least...
POLYUNSATURATED FATS (PUFAs), which break down into...
* Omega-3 Oils (Primarily from Fish: Mackerel, Halibut, Salmon, Albacore Tuna, White Fish)
* Omega-6 Vegetable Oils (Sunflower, Corn and Sesame)
Omega-3's are called "essential" fatty acids (EFAs) because your body can't produce them and they are essential for health. In other words, you must get them from food or supplement sources.
Omega 3's are anti-inflammatory, have been shown to suppress atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) in animal studies and are linked to decreased blood pressure, cholesterol and blood clotting.
Vegetarian sources include: Flax seeds, walnuts and tofu.
Omega-6 oils are also "essential", but have the opposite impact as Omega 3's. They are inflammatory. Some inflammation is needed in our bodies, but the Standard American Diet (aka S.A.D.=() includes exessive amounts of many of these processed vegetable oils which can have an adverse impact on your body and have been linked to increase risk of heart disease and cancer.
Action Steps: If you are a fish-eater, aim for 2 servings of fatty fish (salmon, sardines et al) per week to boost your Omega 3's . If you a vegetarian or vegan, go for vegetarian sources and/or consult with a medical professional regarding supplements.
Limit/avoid Omega 6 vegetable oils.
So let's wrap it all up!
How much do you need?
The USDA Dietary Guidelines recommends that Fat represent 20-35% of our daily casloric intake with 10% or less coming from saturated fats.
NOTE: The American Heart Association recommends 5-6% for saturated fat.
Your Action Plan:
* Ix-nay on the Trans fat
* Limit your Saturated Fat
* Focus on MUFA's and PUFA's
* Limit/Avoid Omega 6 Vegetable Oils
* Be Calorie Aware as Fat is calorie dense
(Oil = 120 calories/TBSP). A little goes a long way.
Including a little healthy fat in each meal helps keep you heart healthy and fuller longer to enjoy good health!
BLESSINGS & XO!