We have heard that too much fat in our diet can increase our risk of developing disease. But how much is too much?
Recommendation of fat consumption
According to the National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP), for the average healthy adult, daily intake of saturated fats should be less than 7 percent of the total daily calories and overall fat intake should be less than 35 percent of total daily calories. It is recommended to consume 30% of total daily calories from fat, 55% from carbohydrates and 15% from protein. Research has found when fat content of the diet goes below 25% of total calories that binge eating is more likely and satiety (satisfaction after eating) decreases.
Fats perform many vital roles to aid in the body’s functions, providing the stored energy in the body, carrying fat-soluble vitamin A ,D, E and K. Without fat we are at risk for developing deficiencies of these vitamins.
The essential fatty acids, omega-3 and omega-6, are substances that need to come from our diet. They are necessary building materials for cells and compounds that perform such vital functions in our body as regulation of blood pressure, blood clotting, immune response and childbirth. Excellent sources of these essential fatty acids are salad dressings containing Canola or soybean oil, salmon, tuna and sardines.
If you want to lose weight, calories do count no matter what nutrient source including fat, carbohydrate, protein and alcohol. Take the calories you eat per day and multiply by 25%, then divide by 9 to get your fat gram percent. For instance, if you eat 1600 calories per day, multiply by 25% to get 400 fat calories, and then divide by 9 to get 44 fat grams.
Carbohydrates should be 55 – 60% of total calories. Since carbohydrates only have 4 calories per gram, take 1600 calories, multiply by 60% to get 960 carbohydrate calories, then divide by 4 to get 240 grams.
If your diet has less than 1 teaspoon of oil per day you could develop a fatty acid deficiency. Symptoms are red, irritated skin, infections and dehydration. The liver processes food fat and may develop abnormalities if fatty acids are deficient as well.
Food that would add fat, but not a lot of calories are poultry and fish and non-fat dairy products like skim milk, low fat cheeses and low fat yogurt. You should avoid fried and high fat foods which are also concentrated sources of sugar and calories.
Another thing to be aware of is when fat is removed from a product, something else must be added, usually carbohydrates in order to maintain a desirable taste and texture. For this reason, many fat-reduced and fat-free products are still very energy dense, containing a high amount of calories. Since calories do matter, whether come from fat, carbohydrates or protein. Therefore, consider the increase in the number of low fat foods while be sure to moderate your portions if you consume a lot of fat reduced products.
Low fat tips
Here are some suggestions for a healthy diet.
Read nutrition labels
Food labels show us how much fat is in a product, in terms of both grams and in terms of calories. Food labels also show us how much saturated fat is in a particular item, as well as the percentage of total calories that amount would represent for someone on a 2000 calorie/day diet.
Low fat cooking
Even healthy foods can turn into unhealthy diet if they are fried or coated with butter and oil during cooking. Try to adapt to lower-fat cooking styles such as steaming, as well as stir and baking with a minimum amount of oil. It is also very important to trim off any visible fat from meat before cooking. Fresh chicken and turkey are low in fat but remember to remove the skin before cooking. Use low fat recipe for ideas on low fat cooking.
Balanced diet needs to watch carefully portion as well. It is easy to overestimate the amount of food that makes up a “portion.” For example, if your diet plan calls for a 3-ounce portion of meat, that’s about the size of a deck of playing cards. Eating portions that are too large, means you are getting more fat than you should.
Another way to reduce the amount of fat in your diet is to eat more fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Most fruits and vegetables are fat-free except avocados, olives and coconuts. Pastas and breads are usually low in fat. Use skimmed milk as much as possible and limit use of whole milk and eat fish more often.
Watch for types of fats
In addition to making healthier choices when it comes to food selection and preparation, it is also important to be aware of the different types of fat. Saturated fats have been linked to higher levels of blood cholesterol, and should be limited. Unsaturated fats such as sunflower, corn, canola and olive oil, can help lower overall blood cholesterol levels, as long as they are used within moderation as part of an overall healthy reduced-fat diet. The benefits of unsaturated fats are lost, however, when they undergo a process called “hydrogenation” which solidifies them so they have a longer shelf life in processed foods. According to the American Medical Association (AMA), these hydrogenated trans fats or trans-fatty acids can actually raise total cholesterol levels. Again, read labels carefully to make sure you are not getting too much of the unhealthy kinds of fat, as well as too much fat overall.
Again, eating a balanced diet and exercising regularly is the key to stay healthy and live a happy life.
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