Ever heard anyone say, “Oh, you’re trying to lose weight? You need to go on a low-fat diet.” First of all, your way of eating should be a lifestyle, not a diet that only lasts for a certain period of time. Secondly, eating fat does not equal being fat! Fat is a macro-nutrient and therefore completely necessary for our body’s health. Our bodies use fats as fuel when performing low to moderate intensity exercise, such as jogging, hiking, or biking. 20 – 35% of your daily calories should actually come from fat. The key is knowing the difference between healthy and unhealthy fats.
Trans Fat (also known as partially hydrogenated oil):
- Raises your LDL (“bad”) cholesterol while lowering your HDL (“good”) cholesterol
- Can increase risk of heart disease
- Found in a variety of foods, including baked goods, fried food, margarine, and snacks such as chips or microwave popcorn
*Something to be aware of:
In the U.S., a food label is allowed to read 0 grams trans fat if the food has less than .05 grams of trans fat per serving. If you eat several servings, that hidden trans fat can quickly add up! Check the ingredient label for partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, which indicates that the food does indeed contain some trans fat, even if the label reads 0 grams per serving. A little trans fat here and there won’t kill you, but you want to be aware of how bad it is for your body and the fact that it can be hidden in foods.
- Can also raise your LDL (“bad”) cholesterol when too much is consumed
- Of the 20 – 35% of fat allowance in your daily diet, less than 10% should come from saturated fat
- Based on a 2,000 calorie diet, your saturated fat limit is about 16 grams per day. If you require less calories in your diet, you should drop that number by at least a few grams. According to the American Heart Association, no more than 7% of your total daily calories should come from saturated fat.
- Found in foods such as fatty beef, poultry with skin, coconut or palm oils, cream, butter, cheese, and other dairy products made from whole or reduced-fat milk
- Helps reduce heart disease
- Helps lower cholesterol levels
- Helps lower blood pressure
Food sources of unsaturated fat:
- Monounsaturated fat:
- olive oil
- canola oil
- peanut oil
- Polyunsaturated fat (also known as the omega fats):
- lean beef and chicken
- flax seed, chia seeds, and sunflower seeds
- nuts (walnuts, pecans, brazil and pine nuts)
- soybean oil, sunflower oil, and corn oil
We can see that fat is an essential nutrient found in many of our foods. It is vital to achieving good health and should never be cut out of our diets. Just make the healthy choice and choose good fats over the bad ones!