Soul food

Are you fat smart? eat healthy eat lean...

There are still many people who continue to eat high-fat diets. Lowering fat in the diet can help prevent obesity, heart disease, and certain types of cancer.  In addition, replacing saturated fat with moderate amounts of unsaturated fat can lower the bad cholesterol (LDL) and may slightly raise good cholesterol (HDL) levels.

Demystifying the facts about fat!

Not all fats are unhealthy.  A moderate amount of fat is essential to a healthy life.  Everyone needs a certain amount of body fat for stored energy, heat insulation, shock absorption, and other functions. In other words body fat acts as a blanket to the body.  However, too much or the wrong type of fat can be harmful. Dietary fat is the fat that is found in food, and is utilised by the body as an energy source.  There are three types of basic fats found in foods-monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, and saturated fats.  These fats can be found in different amounts in most foods.  A healthy diet should have more unsaturated fat than saturated fat.

Which fats are good? Which are bad?

Mono-unsaturated fat is considered to be one of the healthiest types of general fat.  It is primarily found in plants, but can also be found in animals.  Examples include olive oil, rapeseed oil, canola oil, nuts and seeds.  On the whole, these fats tend to lower total cholesterol and LDL in the blood.  They also help to maintain or slightly raise HDL.

Poly-unsaturated fat is considered to be less healthy than mono-unsaturated fat, although, it is much healthier than saturated fat.  It can be found mostly in plants.  Sunflower, corn, soybean, cottonseed and safflower oils contain high proportion of polyunsaturated fats.  In general these fats lower total cholesterol and LDL in the blood.  They may also slightly lower HDL.

Saturated fats are considered to be the bad fats.  These fats are not essential to health.  They are found in foods of animal origin (meat, fish, poultry and high fat dairy products).  They are also present in palm oil, palm kernel oil, coconut oil, cocoa butter, and hydrogenated vegetable oils. Saturated fats raise total blood cholesterol, particularly LDL.

Trans-fats are another type of fats. When vegetable oils are processed into margarine or shortening, the process is called hydrogenation. Sources of trans-fats in the diet include snack foods and baked goods made with partially hydrogenated vegetable oil or vegetable shortening.  Trans-fats are very unhealthy, therefore limit intake.

Choose a diet low in saturated fat and low in cholesterol.  Saturated fat raises blood cholesterol more than other forms of fat.  Dietary cholesterol comes from animal sources such as egg yolks, meat (especially organ meats such as liver), poultry, fish, and higher fat milk products.  Many of these foods are also high in saturated fats.

Therefore, choosing foods with less cholesterol and saturated fat will help lower your blood cholesterol levels.

Today, there is a new generation of reduced-fat foods. People can enjoy the foods that they love without losing flavor and quality, and minus the calories, cholesterol or fat. More foods lower in fat are available in the supermarket today than ever before.  Leaner cuts of meat are available. In the dairy case, low-fat and fat-free milk are abounding, along with reduced-fat cheese, cottage cheese, sour cream, margarine products and yogurt.

Low-fat and fat-free varieties of snacks, pastries, cookies, yogurt, salad dressing, processed cheese and frozen desserts are also accessible in most grocery stores.

It is important to remember, that while lower fat and reduced-fat foods may be effective in reducing the percentage of fat in your diet, calories and portion size still counts.

Some useful tips to help reduce fat in your diet:

Read food labels to help identify foods high in fat.  Three grams or less of fat per serving is considered a low-fat food.  Choose leaner meats, skin poultry and fish, trim off visible fat before cooking meat Select low-fat/non-fat dairy products and dressings Eat more grain products, vegetables and fruits Use fats and oils sparingly.  Be aware that all oils are high in calories  Broil, grill, or bake, limit fried foods.  As the demand for lower fat foods grow, it is important to keep in mind that they must be part of a well-balanced diet. 

When limiting dietary fat, consumers still need to satisfy their basic nutritional needs.  This means eating a variety of foods, more grain products, fruits, vegetables, and, lean meat, poultry, fish, or other protein-rich foods.

Understand that a fat-free food doesn't mean calorie-free!  Some foods that are low in fat may have high levels of sugar and calories per serving.  Happy low fat eating!
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Editor's Comment
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