Nearly everyone is concerned about too much fat in his or her diet. We are constantly hearing about the link between fat and heart disease and other life threatening diseases such as diabetes. But how much do we really know about fats and the effects of fat on our health. Did you know that you actually need fat to metabolize fat? This is why low-fat diets do not always result in weight loss. Therefore, should we add fat when we are preparing healthy meals or leave fat out? It all depends on the type of fat and how we use it. We need our meals to be a good source of health food and vitamins. Here is the skinny on fats and what you need to know when preparing healthy dinner recipes.
There are three basic types of fat: saturated, unsaturated and trans fats. Generally, we should get about 20-30% of our daily calories from fat and only 10% of that should come from saturated fats.
Saturated fats come from animal or diary products and are the least healthy choices to include in your diet. The reason for this is they increase the levels of triglycerides in your bloodstream, which is what causes blockage in the arteries over time. The general rule to remember is the redder the meat the higher the saturated fat content will be, hence the higher the triglycerides in the bloodstream. When eating beef or pork be sure to choose the leanest cuts and remove any visible fat before cooking. It’s always best to include more chicken, with the skin removed and fish in your diet because these are lower in fat. When buying yogurt, or other dairy products choose 1% or 2% fat or those made with skim milk.
Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats come from certain nuts, fish and oils such as olive, canola and flaxseed oil. These fats are known to actually reduce triglycerides by producing good cholesterol referred to as HDL. Polyunsaturated oils are also found in beans and soy products. These are important health foods for vitamins and nutrients because they contain omega-3 and omega-6 essential fatty acids. These oils are important for maintaining healthy blood and helping to prevent the development of plaque. The best oil products to use when serving salads is a first cold pressed virgin olive oil because it contains the freshest of nutrients. Regular olive oil (not cold pressed) can be used when cooking at heats less than 600 degree F. Other alternative choices when baking or frying are shortening or vegetable oils.
Trans fats (or hydrogenated) are the worst fats of all because they increase triglyceride levels and hence bad cholesterol (LDL). Trans fats are commonly found in commercially produced foods and vegetable oils, hydrogenated margarines and spreads. Products are now being developed and easier to find with No Trans Fats written on the packaging. Try and reduce the amount of processed foods in your diet and you’ll avoid most of this type of harmful fat.
A health food diet will always include the essential vitamins and nutrients. At your next dinner start out with a fresh salad using an olive oil based dressing. Then a serving of fish, chicken or lean red meat along with some whole grain breads or pastas and steamed vegetables. Finish up your meal with a light dairy product or low-fat ice cream or yogurt topped with fresh fruit. Remember, we need fat to metabolize fat and by choosing the good fats in olive oils, fish, chicken and nuts we can help our bodies slim down and prevent diseases all at the same time.