Balance is the key to good health
A balanced diet is crucial for our health. Fats grasp our attention because many of our favorite foods contain significant amounts of fat, which provides much of the great taste we enjoy in foods. Fats are a very important part of eating a healthy diet. They play many vital roles in our bodies including providing energy. Dietary fats provide vital hormone-like substances and essential fatty acids for our healthy skin as well. In addition, fats also carry and help our body absorb the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K.
On the other hand, because fat contains more calories than carbohydrates and protein, too much dietary fat may increase our risk of chronic disease. Eating too much fat may also play a role in becoming overweight because fats contain twice as many calories as protein and carbohydrates. A tablespoon of fat contains 120 calories. Therefore, managing fat is very important for a balanced eating diet. Eating appropriate amount fats is a wise way to promote healthy weight and overall health.
Varieties of fats
There are three types of fats found in our diet, which are saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated. These fats come in two forms, solid or liquid. Saturated fats tend to be solid at room temperature such as butter and lard, while poly- and monounsaturated types tend to be liquid at room temperature such as vegetable oils. Some examples of the monounsaturated variety are olive oil and canola oil. Some polyunsaturated types are corn, sunflower, and soybean oils. Although all fats contain all three of these types, the classification as a saturated, mono-, or polyunsaturated is determined by the one that exists in the greatest concentration in that particular item.
Saturated fat can lead to high cholesterol, and is thought more of a contributor to high blood cholesterol than eating too much cholesterol itself. Most of our intake should be from mono- and polyunsaturated fats. The essential fatty acids including omega-3 and omega-6 are polyunsaturated, which must be taken in through the diet, because they are important to immune function and vision and form vital body structures. Specifically Omega-3 in fish oil reduces the blood’s tendency to clot lowering the risk for a heart attack. It is highly suggested that more omega-3 be consumed than omega-6. Omega-3 fatty acids are found in canola and soybean oils, as well as fatty fish such as tuna, salmon, and sardines. Omega-6 fatty acids are found in many foods such as whole grains, mayonnaise, margarine, and salad dressing that give us enough easily.
Be aware of trans fatty acids
Trans fatty acids were introduced to replace saturated fat originally. In reality, both are harmful to our health since they raise LDL cholesterol levels (the “bad” cholesterol) and lower HDL cholesterol levels (the “good” cholesterol). When liquid fats are made solid, they are hydrogenated, which forms trans fatty acids. Watch for food labels for “partially hydrogenated vegetable oil”; products containing this kind of ingredient have high trans fatty acids. Stick margarine, fried foods such as French fries, chicken fingers, and doughnuts etc. usually have high in trans fats as well.
How much fat is appropriate?
Usually there is no need to purposely add fat to an already healthy diet. Fats are found in animal products, milk, fish, and nuts. Butter, margarine, and oils are added to many foods. The American Heart Association, the National Academy of Science, the American Cancer Society, and many other groups and nutrition boards recommend a diet in which a maximum of 30% of calories come from fat including no more than 10% of total calories from saturated fats, 55-65% calories come from carbohydrates, and 10-15% of calories are provided by proteins.
Benefits of low fat diet
There is strong evidence that the high levels of fat consumed are a major risk factor for conditions like gallbladder disease, cancer, and diabetes. Furthermore, high levels of saturated fats, which are found in animal fats, high-fat dairy foods, and solidified (hydrogenated) vegetable oils, raise our cholesterol level and promote heart disease and strokes.
By statistics, the typical American receives more than 40% of his or her calories from fat, with the remaining calories coming from protein and carbohydrates, which are much high than the recommendation of less than 30% from The American Heart Association and many other groups and nutrition boards.
From a weight loss point of view, a low-fat diet is ideal because it minimizes the amount of fat that our body has to store in the first place. Excess dietary fat can be directly stored by our body with minimal conversion needed, only about 3 percent fat calories used in metabolizing dietary fat to body fat. On the other hand, carbohydrates are usually burned up immediately rather than being stored, even to be converted to fat if they’re present in sufficient quantities; they need about 27 percent carb-calories for metabolizing carbs to fat.
Lower-fat foods including reduced-fat, low-fat and fat-free foods can help us manage the fat in our diet while we can continue to enjoy our favorite foods. In moderation, and as part of a healthful diet, these foods make it easy to make low-fat choices. Follow the Food Guide Pyramid and make smart choices when shopping, cooking and eating. Enjoy plenty of grains, vegetables and fruits and eat recommended amounts of lean meats, poultry and fish, and lower-fat dairy products. Enjoy margarine, butter, oils and salad dressing in moderation.
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