For many decades, dietary fat was seen as the enemy, and in an effort to reduce fat intake, reduced fat and fat-free foods became the norm. Because fat is energy dense, meaning it has the highest amount of calories compared to proteins or …
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For many decades, dietary fat was seen as the enemy, and in an effort to reduce fat intake, reduced fat and fat-free foods became the norm. Because fat is energy dense, meaning it has the highest amount of calories compared to proteins or carbohydrates, the fear of consuming any fat set in. Yet, this transition failed to make us healthier. Research is now saying it is time to put fat back in our diets, but it needs to be the good fat.
Fat is an essential macronutrient that helps us to absorb vitamins and minerals from the foods we eat. Fat is a source of energy for the body, providing support for cell membrane development and muscle movements and controlling inflammation. The body needs dietary fat for protecting organs, brain development, blood clotting and producing hormones.
Unsaturated fats, polyunsaturated and monounsaturated help support a healthy cholesterol level by lowering the bad cholesterol levels, which can reduce the risk for heart disease and stroke. High levels of this good fat can be found in foods like olive oil, peanut oil, sesame oil, nuts, seeds and fatty fish like salmon and sardines.
Saturated fats come from animal products such as meats and dairy products. These are the types of foods that are often blamed for increased cholesterol levels. However, there are foods from plants that also contain saturated fats, such as coconut and tropical oils like palm oil and cocoa butter. Previous research has shown that a diet that restricts such foods reduces risk of heart disease or other chronic diseases. In fact, the American Heart Association recommends reducing saturated fat intake to no more than 6 percent of total daily calories.
Trans fat is an unhealthy fat that comes from a process called hydrogenation. It causes inflammation, raises bad cholesterol and other unwanted health effects. In the past, it was found in many packaged foods, restaurant-prepared foods and popular foods such as sweets, pizza, burgers and fries. Although trans fat has been banned in the U.S., small amounts are still allowed. Avoid foods that contain the words hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated in the ingredients.
Eating foods that contain healthy fats is important for good health. To help maintain and develop your body's cells, choose foods high in unsaturated fats. The American Heart Association recommends replacing saturated fats and any trans fats with unsaturated fats. While saturated fat and trans fats cause inflammation in the body, unsaturated fats fight against inflammation, reducing the risk for chronic diseases.
Missy Corrigan is executive of community health for Sumter Family YMCA. She can be reached at email@example.com or (803) 773-1404.
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