The goal for week nine is to eat good fats in moderation (on average fats are 120 calories per table spoon). Healthy fats are your unsaturated fats include polyunsaturated fatty acids and monounsaturated fats found in fish, nuts, seeds, avocados, and olive oil. Both mono- and polyunsaturated fats, when eaten in moderation are an important part of a healthy diet and can be used to replace your bad fats (saturated and trans fats found in butter, lard, whole milk, fatty meats, and poultry skin). Good fats provide essential fatty acids, keep our skin soft, deliver fat-soluble vitamins, and are a great source of energizing fuel. Previous week’s goals apply to this week’s goals as well.
Oils are fats that are liquid at room temperature, like the vegetable oils used in cooking. Oils come from many different plants and from fish. Some common oils are: canola oil, corn oil, sunflower oil, cottonseed oil, soybean oil, and olive oil.
Some oils are used mainly as flavorings, such as walnut oil and sesame oil. A number of foods are naturally high in oils, like:nuts, some fish, olives, and avocados.
Foods that are mainly oil include mayonnaise, certain salad dressings, and soft (tub or squeeze) margarine with no trans fats. Check the Nutrition Facts label to find margarines with 0 grams of trans fat. Amounts of trans fat will be required on labels as of 2006. Many products already provide this information.
Most oils are high in monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats, and low in saturated fats. Oils from plant sources (vegetable and nut oils) do not contain any cholesterol. In fact, no oils from plants sources contain cholesterol. A few plant oils, however, including coconut oil and palm kernel oil, are high in saturated fats and for nutritional purposes should be considered to be solid fats.
Solid fats are fats that are solid at room temperature, like butter and shortening. Solid fats come from many animal foods and can be made from vegetable oils through a process called hydrogenation. Some common solid fats are: butter, chicken fat, beef fat (tallow, suet), pork fat (lard), shortening, and stick margarine.
Most of the fats you eat should be polyunsaturated (PUFA) or monounsaturated (MUFA) fats. Oils are the major source of MUFAs and PUFAs in the diet. PUFAs contain some fatty acids that are necessary for health—called “essential fatty acids.” Because oils contain these essential fatty acids, there is an allowance for oils in the food guide separate from the discretionary calorie allowance.
The MUFAs and PUFAs found in fish, nuts, and vegetable oils do not raise LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels in the blood. In addition to the essential fatty acids they contain, oils are the major source of vitamin E in typical American diets.
While consuming some oil is needed for health, oils still contain calories. In fact, oils and solid fats both contain about 120 calories per tablespoon. Therefore, the amount of oil consumed needs to be limited to balance total calorie intake. The Nutrition Facts label provides information to help you make smart choices.
Good Fats vs. Bad Fats
Fat, fat, fat! Would all of our weight loss problems be solved if we just eliminated fat from our diets? Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. We actually need fats — can’t live without them, in fact. Fats are an important part of a healthy diet: They provide essential fatty acids, keep our skin soft, deliver fat-soluble vitamins, and are a great source of energizing fuel. But it’s easy to get confused about good fats vs. bad fats, how much fat we should eat, how to avoid artery-clogging trans fats, and the role omega-3 fatty acids play in heart health.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s 2005 Dietary Guidelines recommend that adults get 20%-35% of their calories from fats. At a minimum, we need at least 10% of our calories to come from fat.
The problem is that the typical American diet is higher in fat: Roughly 34% to 40% of our calories come from fat. Why? Because they taste so good and are widely available in our food supply. Fats enhance the flavors of foods and give our mouths that wonderful feel that is so satisfying.
Does Dietary Fat Make You Fat?
So you might assume that fat is to blame for the obesity epidemic now plaguing our nation. Actually, fat is only part of the problem. Obesity is much more complicated than just overeating a single nutrient. Eating more calories — from fats, carbohydrates, protein, and alcohol — than you burn off leads to weight gain. Simply put, people who get little physical activity and eat a diet high in calories are going to gain weight. Genetics, age, sex, and lifestyle also weigh into the weight-gain formula.
Dietary fat plays a significant role in obesity. Fat is calorie-dense, at 9 calories per gram, while carbs and protein have only 4 calories per gram, and alcohol has 7 calories per gram. It’s easy to overeat fats because they lurk in so many foods we love: french fries, processed foods, cakes, cookies, chocolate, ice cream, thick steaks, and cheese.
And eating too much fat does more than expand our waistlines. Our love affair with fat has helped to trigger an increase in the rates of type 2 diabetes, certain cancers, and heart disease.
But while choosing healthier fats is better for your heart, when it comes to your waistline, all fats have about the same number of calories. And cutting the total amount of fat in your diet not only helps you shed pounds, it can also help you live longer and healthier.
Good Fats vs. Bad Fats
Basically, there are two groups of fats: saturated and unsaturated. Within each group are several more types of fats.
Let’s start with the good guys — the unsaturated fats. Unsaturated fats include polyunsaturated fatty acids and monounsaturated fats. Both mono- and polyunsaturated fats, when eaten in moderation and used to replace saturated or trans fats, can help lower cholesterol levels and reduce your risk of heart disease.
Polyunsaturated fats, found mostly in vegetable oils, help lower both blood cholesterol levels and triglyceride levels — especially when you substitute them for saturated fats. One type of polyunsaturated fat is omega-3 fatty acids, whose potential heart-health benefits have gotten a lot of attention.
Omega-3s are found in fatty fish (salmon, trout, catfish, mackerel), as well as flaxseed and walnuts. And it’s fish that contains the most effective, “long-chain” type of omega-3s. The American Heart Association recommends eating 2 servings of fatty fish each week. Fish such as salmon, albacore tuna, herring, mackerel, and sardines contain beneficial amounts of omega-3 fatty acids. Most experts agree that eating two servings of fatty fish per week is safe for people who are worried about mercury or other toxins. (Pregnant women should consult with their doctors about consuming fish.) If you don’t like fish, a quality supplement such as Core Omega-3™ will give you the benefits without the taste.
Plant sources are a good substitute for saturated or trans fats, but they are not as effective as fatty fish in decreasing cardiovascular disease. Keep in mind that your twice-weekly fish should not be deep-fat fried!
The other “good guy” unsaturated fats are monounsaturated fats, thought to reduce the risk of heart disease. Monounsaturated fats are typically liquid at room temperature but solidify if refrigerated. These heart-healthy fats are typically a good source of the antioxidant vitamin E, a nutrient often lacking in American diets. They can be found in olives; avocados; hazelnuts; almonds; Brazil nuts; cashews; sesame seeds; pumpkin seeds; and olive, canola, and peanut oils.
- Olive oil. Heart-healthy oils such as olive, canola, and peanut are excellent sources of fat for dieters. They have also been shown to lower bad cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease. Use them sparingly when sautéing, or drizzle them over your favorite salad vegetables with a little vinegar and herbs to maximize the absorption of nutrients. Moderation is important: You really only need about a teaspoon of oil to get all its benefits. Using more will add significant calories.
- Avocados. Eat a spinach and carrot salad with a little avocado, and you’ll not only get a dose of good fat, but you’ll also absorb more phytonutrients like lutein and beta-carotene. Scientists at Ohio State University in Columbus found that more antioxidants were absorbed when people ate a salad containing avocados than when they ate a salad without this tasty fruit. One-quarter of an avocado will add flavor with about 75 calories.
- Nuts. Almonds, walnuts, pecans, and peanuts are powerhouses of good nutrition—full of antioxidants, minerals, and monounsaturated fat. The protein, fat, and fiber make nuts more filling, which helps dieters stay on track. There’s an added psychological bonus to eating nuts: Because they’re rich and satisfying, you probably won’t feel like you’re on a diet.
- Flaxseeds. Packing a wallop of good fat, protein, and fiber. Flaxseeds are a delicious and healthful addition to any diet. You can grind them up and add them to oatmeal, yogurt, salads, or vegetables, or pretty much anywhere you want a nutty crunch. They’re a plant source of omega-3 fatty acids, making them a good choice for vegetarians or people who don’t like fish. Ground flaxseeds also have 3 grams of fiber per tablespoon that will help slow digestion and keep your blood sugar stable.
The ‘Bad’ Fats in Your Diet
Now on to the bad guys. There are two types of fat that should be eaten sparingly: saturated and trans fatty acids. Both can raise cholesterol levels, clog arteries, and increase the risk for heart disease.
Saturated fats are found in animal products (meat, poultry skin, high-fat dairy, and eggs) and in vegetable fats that are liquid at room temperature, such as coconut and palm oils. The 2005 Dietary Guidelines recommend limiting saturated fats to 10% or less of your total calories, while the American Heart Association recommends keeping them to just 7% of total calories.
There is evidence that saturated fats have an effect on increasing colon and prostate cancer risk, so it is recommend whenever possible to choose healthy unsaturated fats — and always strive to be at a healthy weight.
We’re also hearing a lot these days about trans fatty acids, or trans fats. There are two types of trans fats: the naturally occurring type, found in small amounts in dairy and meat; and the artificial kind that occur when liquid oils are hardened into “partially hydrogenated” fats.
Natural trans fats are not the type of concern, especially if you choose low-fat dairy products and lean meats. The real worry in the American diet is the artificial trans fats. They’re used extensively in frying, baked goods, cookies, icings, crackers, packaged snack foods, microwave popcorn, and some margarines. Some experts think these fats are even more dangerous than saturated fats.
Research has shown that even small amounts of artificial trans fats can increase the risk for heart disease by increasing LDL “bad” cholesterol and decreasing HDL “good” cholesterol. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends limiting trans fat to less than 2 grams per day, including the naturally occurring trans fats. The U.S. Dietary Guidelines simply recommend keeping trans fats consumption as low as possible.
Which Fat Is Which?
Most foods contain a combination of fats but are classified according to the dominant fat. This chart lists sources of the good-for-you unsaturated fats as well as some examples of fats you want to avoid.
|Saturated Fats or trans fatty acids (bad)||Polyunsaturated Fats (good)||Monounsaturated Fats (good)|
|Butter||Corn oil||Canola oil|
|Lard||Fish oils||Almond oil|
|Meat, lunch meat||Soybean oil||Walnut oil|
|Poultry, poultry skin||Safflower oil||Olive oil|
|Coconut products||Sesame oil||Peanut oil|
|Palm oil, palm kernel oil||Cottonseed oil||Avocado|
|Dairy foods (other than skim)||Sunflower oil||Olives|
|Partially hydrogenated oils||Nuts and seeds||Peanut butter|
Making room for fat
Fat might be considered a health food, but that’s not a cue to overindulge. At 9 calories per gram, fat is a more concentrated energy source than protein and carbohydrates (each has 4 calories per gram). You need to be mindful of your overall caloric intake if you want to eat more fat and lose weight. But you’ll probably find it a bit easier to manage your calories when you feel full and satisfied after eating the right kinds of fat.
On average fats are 120 calories per table spoon.
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Lisa Olson: Certified Personal Trainer / Fitness & Nutrition Consultation /
Independent Beachbody Coach ID# 117974