Replace Some Unhealthy Fat in Your Diet with Good Fat!
A new low?
For years I have been increasingly appalled by many of the changes in our food supply, but I think we have reached a new low in the popular American diet.
I recently saw an advertisement for a new menu selection that is being offered at a popular fast-food restaurant. It consisted of two breaded, deep-fried pieces of chicken with bacon and cheese sandwiched in between. No bread. No veggies. Just trans fat on saturated fat with some (probably highly adulterated) protein.
Although many may find this an appealing, even macho menu choice, the restaurant should probably call it what it is, “The Heart Attack Sandwich,” or “The Raise Your Bad Cholesterol Melt, ”or maybe they should just call it the "Greasy Gutbuster!"
You do need good fat.
There is no question that you need fat in your diet. If your diet is too low in fat, you will lack energy and ultimately, your overall health will be affected. In addition, fat provides taste, texture and satiety in your diet.
However, you should be aware of the type and quantity of fat you are eating.
The main difference in dietary fat is whether the fat is saturated fat or unsaturated fat. In general, health experts seem to agree that the unsaturated fat is the kind that we should include in our diet more often than the saturated variety.
It is easy to distinguish which fats are saturated because they are solid at room temperature.
There are some animal sources of saturated fat:
Butter… Lard… Visible fat in red meat… Skin fat in poultry… Fat in Lunch meats… Fat in Sausage…
Another source of saturated fat is the tropical “oils” from plants:
Coconut oil… Palm kernel oil… Cocoa butter… Palm oil…
Unsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature and can be divided into:
Monounsaturated oils, such as,
Olive oil… Canola oil… Peanut oil…
And the polyunsaturated oils, including,
Safflower oil… Sunflower oil… Corn oil… Soybean oil… Most “Vegetable” oils…
There is also a significant amount of fat, of the saturated variety, in many dairy products:
Cheese… Milk… Cream… Yogurt… Ice cream… Sour cream…
Eat more good fat from plant foods
As a rule of thumb, it is probably better to get as much of your fat from plant foods as you can. Use animal foods such as meat, cheese and butter sparingly and limit or avoid fried foods, as well as whole-fat dairy products.
When choosing meat, it is generally recommended that you choose the leaner varieties, (although the fat in meat is what makes it “juicy,” so you may want to limit your portions instead, or eliminate just the visible fat).
Olive oil is a good fat
Many health experts are recommending that we use olive oil for cooking instead of other types of vegetable oils. This is because, since it is mostly monounsaturated, it is less likely to turn rancid and it remains fairly stable at high cooking temperatures.
Be sure to choose extra virgin olive oil that has a nice fruity smell and a green color. The use of olive oil has been suggested as one of the reasons that the Mediterranean style of eating, in spite of being high in fat, is not associated with the high incidence of heart disease that is connected with the typical American diet.
The polyunsaturated oils, which have been so popular, are not bad in themselves, but if they are not handled properly they are more likely to breakdown into substances that are not good for you.
Click here for a list of foods with monounsaturated fats.
Essential Fatty Acids from good fat
You need fatty acids (a specific type of fat) in order to be healthy. Your body can manufacture all but two of the fatty acids it needs, linoleic acid and linolenic acid, so these two are called “essential,” because it is essential that you get them from your diet.
There has been a lot of press about the importance of fatty acids, particularly the Omega-3 fats. It has been suggested that most people, while getting enough Omega-6 fats, are deficient in the Omega-3 variety. This is a cause for concern since, in addition to being important for day-to-day functioning of the body, Omega-3 fats seem to protect us against a number of diseases including heart disease, cancer, and Type II diabetes.
There is also a body of research that suggests that this lopsided Omega-6/Omega-3 ratio may contribute to an increased incidence of clinical depression.
Click here for a list of foods with Omega-3 fats.
MY TWO CENTS
You probably know that coconut oil has been touted as everything from a weight loss aid to a cure for cancer. I am generally skeptical of anything that is hyped that much, since it may just be a marketing strategy. One of the reasons coconut oil is considered a healthy fat is because it supplies medium-chain fatty acids, which are easier to metabolize than their longer chain cousins and may help with weight loss.
Here is a link to a page that is pro coconut oil as a health food:
organicfacts.com on Coconut Oil
However, Dr. Andrew Weil, whose opinion I value highly, has taken a more conservative approach to the issue of eating coconut oil, since it is a "saturated fat" that many health experts believe should be limited in our diet.
Dr. Weil on Coconut Oil
Another kind of fat
No discussion of fats would be complete without mentioning a category of fats called “trans-fats" or "TFA’s" (Trans Fatty Acids). Trans fats are a variety of fat that is formed during the hydrogenation of oils to make them into margarine and other vegetable shortenings that are solid at room temperature. The addition of hydrogen to these oils helps keep them from turning rancid and gives them that texture that is so good for spreading on toast and for making piecrust.
Trans fat is not good fat
The problem is that trans fat may be as bad or worse for you than saturated fat, since it can significantly lower your good cholesterol (HDL) and increase your bad cholesterol (LDL), while at the same time promoting inflammation and the formation of blood clots.
All of these factors mean that trans fats in your diet may increase your chances for developing cardio-vascular disease. There is also some research that suggests that trans fats may promote cancer, weaken the immune system, and speed up the aging process.
Invisible fats are still fats
It is sometimes difficult to see the fat in your diet. There are, of course, the obvious sources like butter, margarine, oils or that strip of white stuff on your steak.
It is the invisible fats, however, that tend to sneak up on you and can put you in fat overload--that doughnut or muffin that was the birthday treat at the office this morning, the chocolate bar you had for your 3:00 snack, that little bag of chips or peanuts you munched on while you were driving home from work.
How much good fat do you need?
There has been so much change and controversy surrounding the issue of fat in the diet, that it is difficult to answer the question of how much fat you need. However, If you live in the U.S., it is probably safe for most people to answer this question by saying, “Less than you are eating!!”
There is a not an RDA for fat, and for most people it is more a question of reducing fat intake than trying to get enough. Having said that, it is generally recommended that you get at least 20%, and no more than 30% of your calories from fat.
Making the change to good fats in your diet will go a long way toward helping you achieve your goal to eat healthy.
Eat good fat and be healthy with my warmest regards,
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