By Diann Douglas
USDA Dietary Guidelines recommend choosing a diet low in fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, trans fats and using monounsaturated fats; all part of a plan to reduce your risk of heart disease. What a tall order! And, do you understand the difference between these fats? This week in National Heart Month, let’s explore the issue of fat and ways to get more heart healthy fats into your diet.
According to Dr. Linda Bobroff, UF Extension Nutrition Specialist, fat is an essential nutrient in our diets. It is a source of energy, or calories and is needed to help with the absorption of fat soluble vitamins. The problem with fat in our diets is that we eat too much.
Fats are made up of a mixture of fatty acids; they can be saturated, monounsaturated, or polyunsaturated fatty acids.
Saturated fats tend to raise cholesterol levels which increase your risk of heart disease; it is recommended we limit the intake of foods high in this type of fat. Saturated fats are solid at room temperature and can be found in animal sources of food; examples are butter, cream, and beef fat. The exceptions to the rule are coconut, palm and palm kernel oil, which are often used in commercial baked goods, cookies and crackers.
Cholesterol is a fat-like substance that is part of all human and animal cells. It is needed to form hormones, cell membranes and other body substances. Since your body makes its own, you don’t need extra cholesterol in your diet. Over time, high levels of cholesterol cause plaque to collect along the walls of your blood vessels resulting in restricted blood flow or blockages. It is recommended that you keep cholesterol take to 300 mg. each day. Cholesterol is found animal sources of food; meat and whole dairy. Usually when you alter you fat intake for saturated fats you also reduce cholesterol.
Trans fats have been in the news in recent years, they are formed when liquid oils are made into solid fats, although small amounts are found naturally in some animal-based foods. Like saturated fat, trans fats raise LDL cholesterol in blood, which increases the risk of heart disease. Manufacturers now have to label their products for trans fats.
Reading nutrition labels and ingredients lists can help identify the amount of fat in a food product. The nutrition label will also list total fat—saturated, unsaturated and trans -fats. Ingredients are listed in descending order. To keep your fat intake within reason, choose foods with fat listed lower on the ingredient list. Choose foods with low amounts of fat, saturated and trans fats on the label.
Polyunsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature and do not increase cholesterol levels. Corn oil is an example of this type of fat. It is a healthier fat to use and many recipes have been developed to use this fat in baked produce such as biscuits.
Monounsaturated fats are the better choice; they are liquid at room temperature and tend to help lower cholesterol. That’s right, they help carry cholesterol out of the body. Remember though, all fats are high in calories and should be used sparingly. Canola oil is the highest in monounsaturated fats. Other liquid oils like olive, peanut and safflower are all high in monounsaturated fats.
So, how do you apply these recommendations in daily eating habits? When preparing food, use fat free milk, lean cuts of meat and remove the skin from poultry. Forget frying altogether, there are so many interesting low fat cooking methods; try baking, roasting, steaming or grilling. If you have grandma’s favorite recipe that is high fat and can’t live without it, consider eating it less often, have a smaller portion or modify the recipe and use a heart healthy fat.
All fats are not equal, change the type of fat you use and then reduce the total amount. Start by drastically reducing saturated fats and substitute monounsaturated fats in your diet. For more information on fat in your diet, call the Madison Extension office for your copy of “Nutrition for Health and Fitness: Fat in Your Diet”.
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