Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Skinny on Fat

Today we’re talking about the role fat plays in a healthy diet.

For years, fat has been the bad boy of the diet world, blamed for obesity, heart disease and high cholesterol. With the advent of low fat diets, most people should be able to control their weight better or be healthier. Unfortunately, that’s not necessarily true.

It’s when you factor in the type of fat with overall intake that makes a difference. There’s a lot of info out there and some of it is contradictory. What’s a poor girl just trying to make healthy choices to do? Research!

Despite the bad name, fat is important for our bodies to function properly. It helps brain function, learning abilities, memory retention and moods. Over half, actually 60% of our heart’s energy comes from burning fats. Fats compose the material that insulates and protects the nerves. Our lungs, eyes, digestion, organs and immune systems all use fats to keep our bodies in working order. Whether we like it or not, fat is here to stay.

As I mentioned before, there are different kinds of fats. In order to make the best choices, we need to know what to look for.

Monounsaturated fats are found in plant oils like canola oil, peanut oil, and olive oil. Other sources are avocadoes, nuts and seeds. People following a Mediterranean style diet that incorporates a lot of monounsaturated fats usually have a lower risk of cardiovascular disease.

Polyunsaturated fats are found in sunflower, corn and soybean oils, as well as walnuts and fish. Omega-3 fatty acids are found in this group. These fatty acids are anti-inflammatory and your body can’t make them. They’re also found in very few foods.

Saturated fats are found in animal products like red meat and whole milk dairy products. Tropical vegetable oils such as coconut oil or palm oil are in this family. Poultry and fish contain saturated fat but less than red meat. Our bodies actually produce all the saturated fat that we need if we consume enough of the good fats, making it unnecessary to eat these sources of fat.

Trans fats are vegetable shortenings, some margarines, crackers, candies, cookies, snack foods, fried foods, baked goods, and other processed foods. Trans fat raises your bad cholesterol, increasing your risk of heart disease and lowers your good cholesterol.

I think we’re all smart cookies and know that we should limit our intake of saturated and trans fats. But how much fat do we actually need to maintain a healthy body and how much is too much?

That depends on you. Your lifestyle, your weight, your age and your overall health factor into the equation. General guidelines recommended by the USDA are:

1. Keep total fat intake to 20-35% of your total daily calories.
2. Limit saturated fats to less than 10% of your daily calories.
3. Limit trans fats to 1% of your calories.

The bottom line is that we need to be aware of what we’re putting into our mouths. I’m so guilty of this, but in the last few months, as I’ve made more conscious choices, I’ve noticed a difference.

I feel better. My body thanks me now. I used to get heartburn 4 times a week or more. I can count on one hand how many times I’ve had it since August. I have more energy to do the things I want to do. For the first time, I really get the whole balanced diet thing.

How about you? Do you watch the fats you use? What tips do you have for keeping in the good fat and getting rid of the bad?

Also, I’ve got a poll up on the right hand side under About Me that I’m going to keep up until Tuesday of next week. I’ve been doing Weightloss Wednesdays for quite a while now. I’d like to know if you all like this and want me to keep it up. So please, place your vote.

Friday, Paige Tyler will be here guest blogging with us. Her new book, Dead Sexy, releases that day. Her hero is a zombie and she swears he’s sexy. She’ll tell us more about the premise of her hero and we’ll be giving away a copy for one lucky commenter.


Rachel Lynne said...

Hey Riley,
Good post. I hate watching what I eat ... but I do it (for the most part!. I rarely eat trans or sat. fats, they taste good going down but the heartburn is h*ll later. I also can't eat refined carbs very often. Since I started eating mostly protein and whole grains junk foods bother my digestion and make me feel sluggish. I don't miss them because I love wearing smaller jeans!
You keep blogging about healthy weightloss and proper nutrition and I'll start blogging on Not So Fat Tuesdays again, I'll direct readers to your site for more tips and info on Wednesdays, deal?
Congratulations on the "new" you, feels great, huh?

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