We have become obsessed with the words low-fat and non fat. We get bombarded with seemingly guilt free options when we travel through the grocery store, fat-free ice cream, low-fat candies, cookies and cakes, salad dressings and other foods. While our low-fat options have exploded, so have obesity rates. Despite what you have been told having fats in your diet is not as bad as you may have once believed. Now there is a difference between good fats and bad fats – bad fats such as trans fats and saturated fats are guilty of causing clogged arteries and weight gain. The good fats such as, monounsaturated fats, polyunsaturated fats, and omega-3 have just the opposite effect. Good fats help maintain a healthy weight, fight fatigue, control hunger, keep your heart healthy and provide other wonderful benefits.
When I hear the word fat-free, I almost cringe. I think about two things, first it’s almost tasteless and second I think what did they replace with what they took out. What typically happens when food producers take out something they will add other ingredients like sugar, flour, salts and other thickeners to make up for what they had to remove which adds calories and unwanted chemicals. Just make sure you read the labels if you grab a product that is fat-free and make sure it isn’t loaded with sugar and other additives and to make sure it is lower in calories than the regular version.
Saturated fats and trans fats contribute to clogged arteries and when eaten in excess can put you at risk for heart disease and strokes. You will typically find saturated fats in full fat dairy foods including cheese, ice cream, whole milk and fatty meats. Animal food provide most of the saturated fats in our diet but you will find that you can get high saturated fats from palm kernel oil, coconut oil and cocoa butter and those can be found in cookies, crackers and chips. There is no real way to avoid adding saturated fats to your diet to just try to keep an eye out for them, our bodies produce saturated fats so there is no dietary requirement for them. A good rule of thumb is to keep your saturated fats at about 7% of all the fats you consume. Along with clogging your arteries trans fat has also been linked to cancers – specifically breast and colorectal. Many doctors claim it’s one of the worst fats you can eat! Trans fat is typically artificially created to allow foods to stay on the shelf longer. Artificial trans fat comes from foods that contain partially hydrogenated oil and is formed when hydrogen is added to liquid oil turning it into solid fat. Make sure you read your food labels – the labels will have your Saturated Fats and Trans Fats labeled in grams, even if they say 0 grams look at the ingredients and see if there is partially hydrogenated soybean oil and/or cottonseed oil.
Monounsaturated and Polyunsaturated fats should be what your diet mainly consist of with the exception of adding in the Omega-3 Fats. These fats reduce the risk of clogged arteries which help maintain a healthy heart but there benefits do not stop there. Foods high in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat include nuts, seeds, avocados, vegetable oils (olive, canola, sunflower, soy and corn) and fish. Omega-3 Fats are still considered a polyunsaturated fat but are super fats for your brain and heart health! The best source to pull Omega-3 fats from is fish, especially salmon, herring, mackerel, anchovies and sardines.
So be mindful when you walk into the grocery store and see, low-fat and non-fat labels do not set your sights on grabbing those first off the shelves. Take the time to read the label on the back, check for the trans fats and saturated fats then check the ingredients. Remember, it’s sometimes better to eat the regular version, you will find that you might be consuming fewer calories and fat in one serving than you would in the low-fat, non-fat version.
So here are a few quick tips when considering fats:
- Read your labels! Always!
- Eat at least one good source of Omega-3 fats a day
- Cut back on red meat, cheese, milk and ice cream
- Switch from butter to soft tub margarine
- Avoid packaged foods when possible
- Use healthy oils when cooking or baking like canola, sunflower and oil
- Select lean meats
- Limit your intake of fast foods and processed snacks and switch them out with fresh veggies and fruits
Till next time,