Most people when we think of fat we think of something that should be avoided. As consumers we are constantly given low-fat or fat-free options when it comes to our food choices, so why wouldn’t we assume that fat is bad for us? Fat has been given a bad reputation but I’m here to tell you that not all fat is created equal! Good fats can actually help us manage our weight, fight fatigue, keep our minds sharp and our hearts healthy.
Are fat-free foods the healthier choice?
The truth is that whenever fat is taken out of food where it would naturally occur, well it is being replaced by something else. The food will become highly processed and usually high in refined carbohydrates, sugar and calories. Since the low-fat / fat-free craze hit grocery store shelves over two decades ago, the obesity rate in America has doubled. Lowering overall fat intake does not coincide with weight loss, they key is choosing the right fats.
THE BAD FATS
Saturated fat and Trans fat should be avoided, Trans fat being the worse of the two. These fats can increase your risk of heart disease and elevate bad cholesterol. These fats are solid at room temperature, like a stick of butter.
Foods Containing Trans Fat
- Fried Foods
- Vegetable Shortening
- Some packaged food, such as popcorn and chips
- Baked goods such as doughnuts, cookies and pastriesfats
- Pizza dough
A lot of manufacturers are eliminating the use of trans fat so always check the food label and/or research the nutritional content of a company. Trans is the most detrimental fat when consumed by people. It is made through a process called “hydrogenation”, which heats and combines vegetable oil with hydrogen gas, this process creates a “partially hydrogenated vegetable oil”. It is great for keeping food from spoiling, not great for our bodies. Stay away from trans fat!
Foods Containing Saturated Fat
- Whole fat milk and cream
- Chicken skin
THE GOOD FATS
Monounsaturated fat and polyunsaturated fat. These fats are heart healthy, beneficial to levels of good cholesterol and provide our bodies with lasting energy. These fats are liquid at room temperature.
Foods Containing Monounsaturated Fat
- Olive oil
- Certain types of nuts, such as almonds, pecans and cashewsfats
- Sunflower Oil
- Peanut Oil
- Peanut Butter
- Canola Oil
- Sesame Oil
Foods Containing Polyunsaturated Fat
- Corn Oil
- Safflower Oil
- Soybean Oil
- Sunflower Seeds
- Pumpkin Seeds
While it is important to include these fats in your diet it is also important to remember moderation. Fat should not take up more than 20 – 35% of your calorie intake according to the USDA.
Some simple ways to to avoid bad fats are to stay away from fast food and highly processed baked goods, and check food labels for “partially hydrogenated oils”.
- Eat less red meat and more lean meats such as chicken and fish. Always bake, broil, or grill food, instead of frying.
- Eat full-fat dairy products in moderation.
- Cook with healthy oils such as olive or canola. Avoid using lard, shortening or butter.
- Stock up on easily available snacks that are high in healthy fats, such as avocados, almonds or olives.