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Madison County Extension Service: Reduce your intake of fats and sugars

Since March is National Nutrition Education Month, let’s continue our focus on making positive food choices. The USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans has a full chapter on foods Americans need to work on reducing in their daily consumption; solid fats and sugars are two that take top billing. SoFAS is the new acronym USDA has coined 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 scratching their heads. Let’s break this down and look at “SoF” (solid fats) first. Fats are categorized into three groups know as fatty acids; they can be saturated, polyunsaturated and monounsaturated. All fats contain a combination of fatty acids, but they are in different amounts. Saturated fats are solid at room temperature and that is where we get “SoF”, the exception of 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. Fats that are liquid at room temperature will be higher in poly or monounsaturated fats and do not contribute to cholesterol levels. These liquid fats are the better choice, but use all fats sparingly. Trans fats are also a fat that can lead to increased cholesterol levels, these are formed in 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 and prepared desserts. Small amounts of trans fats 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 choose low-fat and fat free dairy foods to reduce solid fats and naturally occurring trans 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. High monounsaturated fats are canola, olive, soy, sunflower and peanut. Then, read the nutrition label and find the smallest amount of saturated and trans fats with a higher number of poly or monounsaturated 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, they have a more positive affect in your body. 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. 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 new Dietary Guidelines, added sugar contributes an average of 16 percent of the total calories in the American diet. This translates into added calories and excess calories can only mean extra pounds. Sugar also contributes to tooth decay, another good reason the consume less. 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 sports drink account for 36 percent of extra sugar in our diet Sugar sweetened fruit drinks account for about 10 percent of the extra calories in the American diet. Sweet tea, a southern stable, is loaded with sugar and falls into this category, so sweeten lightly. The message is to cut back on food high in sugar and eat them less often. Solid fats and added sugar can contribute a substantial portion of calories to the American diet. It is estimated that on average solid fats and added sugar contribute up to 800 calories per day to an adult’s diet. 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 eating for health or a free copy of MyPlate, contact the Madison County Extension Service at 973-4138. The University of Florida Extension/IFAS Extension – Madison County is an Equal Opportunity Institution.

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