Fat- it’s the F word. When used as an adjective, it can be one of the worst insults one can voice. When used as a noun, we avoid it like the plague, quickly throwing down harmless food containers which bear the filthy word, unless it is directly followed with “free” or preceded by “low.” However, according to experts, it may be high time to add the shunned word it back into our nutritional vocabulary.
Barbara Roberts, MD and director of the Women’s Cardiac Center at the Miriam Hospital says that our bodies need fat to function properly. “Fats help you absorb vitamins A, D, and E and they are vital for your nervous system.” After all, the Mediterranean diet is full of healthy fats, and look at all those gorgeous, healthy Mediterraneans.
The Skinny On Fat
5 to 30 percent of your total daily calories should come from fats. It’s all about knowing the good from the bad.
Also known as MUFAs, these fats lower bad cholesterol, raise good cholesterol, prevent plaque buildup in your arteries and cut down on belly fat. You can find them in peanuts, peanut butter, sesame sees, olive oil, and canola oil. Says Roberts, “Just two to three tablespoons of olive oil a day can raise HDL (good cholesterol) levels and protect against heart disease.”
These are the fats that contain the omega-3 fatty acids. Aside from lowering LDL (bad cholesterol) they can also strengthen your immune system, increase brain function, and improve your mood. These can be found in fish like salmon and herring, and in canola oil, walnuts, flaxseed, and tofu.
Saturated Fats (bad)
These are the bad guys. They raise cholesterol and increase heart disease. You’ll find them in all the likely places: cream, whole milk, butter, meat, and even in some plant foods like palm and coconut oils. Try to limit saturated fats to under 10 % of your daily calorie intake. A good way to start? “Remove any hard fat you can see, such as the skin on chicken,” suggests American Dietetic Association spokesperson Christine Gerbstadt, MD.
Boo! Hiss! If saturated fats are bad, these guys are downright evil. Transfats are made from unsaturated fat chemically altered to increase shelf life. They raise bad cholesterol, lower good cholesterol and,”100 percent promote heart disease, according to Dr. Gerbstadt. You’ll find them in about everything that qualifies as junk food, including crackers, chips, cookies, cake, margarine, doughnuts, and french fries. The FDA provides that food manufacturers can claim a product is trans fat free id it has 0.5 grams of transfat or less. Translation: more than one serving can contain more than a gram of transfat. Check ingredient labels for “partially hydrogenated vegetable oil,” a.k.a. transfat.
Eric Tark, Director of the Touchstone Diabetes Center at UT Southwestern Medical Center says, “The average person has 10 billion to 20 billion fat cells.” Overeating creates new fat cells. Losing weight causes fat cells to shrink, but not disappear. The best way to avoid excessive weight gain is by following a balanced diet including lean protein and low fat dairy and doing cardio and strength training regularly.
Smart Food Swaps: To jumpstart your healthy eating program, swap out
Regular bacon for Canadian or turkey bacon as, according to Emily Rubin, RD, “Pork bacon is loaded with saturated fat.” Stick margarine for tub or butter. Stick margarine can have as much as three times the trans fat of tub. Switch to butter to lose the transfats. Regular ice cream to for low fat. No way, you say? Rubin says,”Two scoops of the premium kind can have 11 grams of saturated fats, about half the amount you should eat for an entire day.’
What are you swapping out to improve your fat choices? We want to know how you fight the good fight on bad fat.