I’m sure most of you associate the fat in a diet with the reason behind a person being fat. But is that really true?
I know it’s not, but what about you.
You might think how can fat in a diet be good, or why should you even include fat in your diet.
Is fat in a diet really the culprit that you should decide to abandon it altogether?
People nowadays have become more health conscious and are careful about their fat intake. That’s because they want to live a healthy lifestyle, which is good.
Nevertheless, the fact remains that the fat in a diet is a very important factor that you cannot neglect. And to say that you shouldn’t be eating any fat at all, or remain on a low-fat diet would be wrong too.
“All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt.” ~ Charles M. Schulz
I’ve noticed that as my daughters are growing up, they are becoming more health conscious. I’m happy to see this positive change in them.
However, I’m also worried because they feel that if they have any kind of fat food, they will put on weight – which is just not the case!
This post is for my children and for those who feel that fat in a diet is bad for health. I hope to clear all misconceptions and convince you that fat in your diet does not necessarily make you fat.
Let’s start by learning a little about fats. I won’t go into too many scientific facts but simply mention a few things, so that you have a basic understanding about fats.
What are Fats
Simply put, fats in your body are vital nutrients. Your body needs them for daily functioning and to remain healthy.
Dietary fat is found in foods from plants and animals. It’s one of the three macro-nutrients along with protein and carbohydrates that provides energy for your body.
The dietary fat is a source of energy and supplies essential fatty acids for growth, proper functioning of the body, nerves and the brain. It’s useful for giving you a healthy skin too.
Fats are like store houses of energy and food. Thus, the fat in your diet is actually a good source of energy, and you need them for development and survival.
Not to mention their role in the transportation of fat-soluble vitamins like Vitamins A, D, E, and K through the bloodstream to where they are needed.
These fats help you feeling full. However, it’s true that too much fat in a diet does lead to weight gain because eating more fats leads to eating more calories.
Being the most calories dense food source of energy, fats contain 9 calorie per gram, while carbohydrates or protein each contain only 4 per gram.
One misconception among people is that they tend to take cholesterol for fat. As a matter of fact, cholesterol is not fat, but a fat-like substance that is also needed for your body.
However, excess of cholesterol can lead to heart problems. It’s recommended that you consume not more than 300 mg of cholesterol daily. Are you taking only that much?
A lot more can be written about the dietary guidelines one needs to follow, but let’s stick to the basics here.
By now I’m sure you understand that both fat and cholesterol are essential for proper functioning and growth of your body, but only their excess intake might be harmful.
Recommended Fat In a Diet
The amount of fat your body needs depends on your age, weight, lifestyle, and the state of your health. For an average person, the food experts recommend –
- To keep the total fat intake to 30% of your total calorie intake (about 66 grams for a 2000 calorie diet).
- Limit trans fats to 1% of calories (2 grams daily for a 2000 calorie diet)
- Limit saturated fats to less than 10% of your calories (200 grams for a 2000 calorie diet)
Remember, more than just the amount of fat, it’s the kind of fat you eat that really matters.
Different Types of Fats – Facts You Should Know
There are various kinds of fats and I’m sure you’ve all heard about them. But let me explain briefly for those who don’t know about them.
The two main kinds of fats are the “good” fats that lower the risk of diseases, and the “bad” fats that increase disease risk.
To simplify things for you, let me tell you a little about these fats and what foods mainly come in each type.
Good Fats – Love Them!
Monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats are called the “good fats” as they are good for your heart, your cholesterol, and overall health.
Studies indicate that eating foods rich in monounsaturated fats (MUFAs) improves blood cholesterol levels, which can lower your risk of heart diseases.
Similarly, eating foods rich in polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs) improves blood cholesterol levels and also may help reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes.
I must mention here that omega-3 fats are also good fats that are essential to your physical and emotional health. They are type of polyunsaturated fats.
Some benefits of omega-3 include that they prevent and reduce the symptoms of depression, lessen the risk of heart disease, stroke, and cancer. They ease join pain, arthritis, and inflammatory skin conditions.
They also support a healthy pregnancy, and protect against dementia and memory loss. So, all the more reason to make omega-3 a part of your daily diet – isn’t it?
As your body can’t make this essential fatty acid, so you can only get it from food. More on this later.
These good or healthy fats help to manage your moods, fight fatigue, and even control your weight.
Sources of Monounsaturated Fats
• Olive oil
• Canola oil
• Sunflower oil
• Peanut oil
• Sesame oil
• Peanut butter
• Nuts like almonds, peanuts, hazelnuts, pecans, and cashews
Sources of Polyunsaturated Fats
• Corn oil
• Soybean oil
• Safflower oil
• Soy milk
• Flax seed
• Fatty fish like tuna, salmon, herring, sardines, and trout
Tell me, how many of these sources of food do you really eat? Are you trying to avoid these too? If yes, then you better stop doing that.
Bad Fats – Don’t Love Them Much!
Saturated fats and Trans fat are called the “bad fats” as they elevate cholesterol and increase your diseases risk. Saturated fat comes mainly from animal sources of food.
It increases total blood cholesterol levels, LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol levels that increases the risk of cardiovascular diseases, and may increase type 2 diabetes.
One way to make out these bad fats from the good ones is that appearance-wise, Trans fats and saturated fats tend to solidify at room temperature – like butter or margarine.
On the other hand, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats remain in their liquid state, as in most of the oils mentioned in the earlier section.
It’s these bad fats that are responsible for weight gain, and not to mention how people then try unhealthy ways to lose weight!
Here are the sources of bad fat.
Sources of Saturated Fats
• Cheese – mainly hard cheese
• Ice cream
• Coconut and palm oil
• Whole-fat dairy products like milk and cream
• Chicken with its skin on
• High-fat cut of meat, like beef, pork, and lamb
Sources of Trans Fats
• Candy bars
• Hamburger buns
• Vegetable shortening
• Snack foods like corn, potato, tortilla chips
• Packaged snack food like chips, crackers, microwave popcorns
• Commercially baked cookies, pastries, muffins, cakes, pizza dough, doughnuts
• Fried foods like French fries, breaded fish, friend chicken, chicken nuggets, hard taco shells
• Pre-mixed products like cake mix, pancake mix, and chocolate drink mix
Well, now I might be on the verge of making you guilty, am I? Do you eat of lot of this kind of fatty food?
If you do, then the answer to leading a healthy lifestyle lies in making healthy food choices and replacing the bad fats with the good ones.
The key is not to avoid fat in your diet altogether, but to eat more of good fats and less of bad fats.
Food containing fat often contain a mixture of the saturated and unsaturated fats. Food labels mention the amount of each type of fat in the food, or the amount of saturated fat in the food.
Food labels also mention how many calories are there in the food. I love checking up on this whenever I shop. So, if you get into the habit of reading food labels too – it would do you good.
Changes You Can Make to Include Good Fat In a Diet
Let me share some tips and ways to consume more of the good fats, instead of the bad fats. I know a lot more ways can be added to this list – so do share your tips in the comments.
1- Limit your intake of saturated fats by replacing French fries with nuts, or using oil in place of butter. Or replace red meat with poultry and fish. Also, use low-fat milk instead of whole milk and full-fat dairy products.
Some tips to reduce saturated fats –
- Bake, boil, broil, steam, and grill, instead of frying. I’ve tried these ways and they taste just as good. It’s just a matter of getting used to them.
- Choose lean cuts of meats and stick to white meat as that has less saturated fat. Eat less of red meat and more of fish, chicken and turkey.
- Before cooking chicken, remove the skin from the chicken and trim off as much fat as possible.
- Avoid cream and cheese sauces, or serve them less often. I prefer using yogurt dips instead.
- If you like cheese, opt for low-fat cheeses like mozzarella. I opt for the fresh home-made cheese instead.
- Use more of oil and less of lard, butter, or shortening. I always use the ‘good’ oil for cooking.
- If you love eggs, choose the egg whites, or its substitute, or tofu.
- In place of sour cream, choose plain, non-fat yogurt. And in place of cream, choose fat-free creamer, of low-fat milk.
- You can even replace ice-cream with frozen yogurt or low-fat ice cream. I’m glad I make most of the ice-creams at home, and when kids want to eat out, we let them have anything, as it’s once in a while. 🙂
2- Make sure to have omega-3 daily and some good sources are walnuts, ground flax seeds fish, and oils like canola, soybean, and flax seed If you are a vegetarian, you can get your omega-3 by eating algae, which is high in DHA, or take fish oil, or supplements.
I prefer using grounded flax seed and more of canola and soybean oil at home – and am really glad I do!
3- Cook with olive oil rather than butter or lard. For baking, try canola or vegetable oil.
4- Try eating more avocados, and include them in your salads or sandwiches. They are loaded with brain and heart-healthy fats, and give you a full feeling.
5- Make your own salad dressings and avoid the commercial ones as they are often high in saturated fats or made with Trans fat oils. You can use sesame or flax seed oil to create your own healthy salad dressing. I prefer sticking to fresh lemon juice with a few spices for my salads at home.
“Foods high in bad fats, sugar and chemicals are directly linked to many negative emotions, whereas whole, natural foods rich in nutrients – foods such as fruits, vegetables, grains and legumes – contribute to greater energy and positive emotions.” ~ Marilu Henner
Tips to Avoid Bad Fat In A Diet
If you find it difficult to find the good fat substitutes, at least you can avoid the bad fats in your food, which will only harm you in the long run.
1- Try to remove trans fat from your diet by checking the food labels while you shop. Watch out for “partially hydrogenated oil” in the ingredients. Even if the food claims its fat free, this ingredient should alert you.
2- Limit eating out and having all kinds of fast food Remember, most places reuse the oil that isn’t the good one. Sometimes even if eating joints say its cholesterol or fat free, it might not be.
We do eat out but it’s very rare. I think everything in moderation is good. More so, I don’t want to ban the kids from eating fast food as they love it! But am glad we eat less of it as a family.
Do you know more tips to avoid bad fat in a diet? Then please do share with all readers!
How convinced are you after reading this post? In any case, do watch this video if you really are health conscious.
Lynn Goldstein ~ Good Fats vs. Bad Fats ~ You Tube Video
Speaking of myself, I keep trying out various healthy ways to include the good fats in the food that I make. More so, if you are careful to let go of the bad fat in your diet, you tend to remain healthy always.
Remember, fat in a diet isn’t bad – it’s choosing the right type of fat that really matters. You need a well-balanced diet to live a healthy lifestyle, and fat is definitely a part of that balance.
Over to you –
Are you careful about the kind of fat you eat in your diet, or do you tend to ignore this fact? According to you, what should be the ideal fat in a diet, and are you following it? Share your thoughts below.
Photo Credit: FreeDigitalPhotos
Posted on: April 30th, 2013
Last Updated on: April 15th, 2014