Madison County Extension Office: Watch Out for Solid Fats and Added SugarsMar 22nd, 2012 | By Submitted | Category: Editorials
By Diann Douglas
We are still in March, National Nutrition Month, so this week, let’s look at another updated recommendation from the revised Dietary Guidelines. Americans need to work on reducing daily consumption of two food categories; solid fats and added sugars. A new acronym, SoFAS has been coined by USDA to describe this trend in the American meal patterns; the “SoF” stands for solid fat and the “AS” represents added sugars. While the intention is a catchy phrase, it might leave some people confused.
Let’s break this down and look at solid fats (SoF) first. Fats are categorized into three groups know as fatty acids; they can be saturated, polyunsaturated and monounsaturated. All fats contain a combination of three fats, but they are in different amounts. Saturated fats are solid at room temperature; the exceptions are palm and coconut oils. These fats tend to raise cholesterol levels in the human body, which over time can cause a plaque build-up in blood vessels leading to coronary heart disease. Foods high in saturated fats are meat, whole dairy and baked products made with palm or coconut oil.
Healthier fats are liquid at room temperature, are higher in poly or monounsaturated fats and do not contribute to cholesterol levels. Oils that are high in monounsaturated fats are canola, safflower, olive and peanut oils. Examples of polyunsaturated fats are corn, cotton seed and soy bean oil. This gives you a variety of fats to use, but always use fats sparingly.
Trans fats are also a fat that can lead to increased cholesterol levels, these are formed during food processing. When hydrogen is added to a fat to make it more solid, trans fats are formed making the fat more saturated. Synthetic trans fatty acids are found in margarines, snack foods, peanut butter and prepared desserts. Small amounts are naturally found in meat and milk foods.
How does all of this information translate into the food choices you make every day? Eat lean cuts of meat and chose low-fat and fat free dairy foods to reduce solid fats and naturally occurring tans fats. Consume less prepared desserts and snacks to reduce trans fats and saturated fats that are added to foods as an ingredient.
Consumers always have questions about margarine, there are so many on the market. Read the ingredient list and start with a spread that has a monounsaturated fat as the major ingredient. Then, read the nutrition label and find the smallest amount of saturated and trans fats with a higher number of unsaturated fats.
In food preparation, both monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are much better alternatives to solid fats. While they still have the same amount of calories, unsaturated fats have a more positive affect in your body.
Now, for the “AS” or added sugars in SoFAS, by itself, it is not a bad ingredient and it adds sweetness to our foods and serves as a browning agent in many foods and most have few nutrients, and are high in calories. According to the Dietary Guidelines, added sugar contributes an average of 16% of the total calories in the American diet. This translates into added calories and excess calories can only mean extra pounds.
Sugars come in many forms. Read the nutrition labels, added sugars may be high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, malt syrup, maple syrup, fructose, dextrose molasses or honey.
Can you guess the food source highest consumption of added sugar? Sugary drinks like soda, energy drinks and sport drinks account for 36% of extra sugar in our diet. Sugar sweetened fruit drinks account for about 10% of the extra calories in the American diet. Sweetened tea, which adds extra calories to our Southern diet is a sweetened drink. The message is to cut back on foods high in sugar; eat or drink them less often.
Solid fats and added sugar can contribute a large portion of calories to the American diet. It is estimated that on average 800 calories per day come from these two food ingredients. Remember too, most foods that are high in these ingredients are also low in other nutrients and it is well documented these foods contribute to weight gain. The recommendation from USDA is to eat these foods less often. Instead, focus on nutrient-dense forms of foods from all food groups.
For more information on any nutrition topic, contact the Madison County Extension Service at 973-4138.
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