Sunday, May 27, 2012

Getting the nutrients you need: Fat
There are many different types of dietary fats and some act very differently in your body than others. If all you care about are calories, then the type of fat or oil you use to prepare or flavor food doesn’t matter, because they all contain 9 calories per gram or approximately 100 calories per tablespoon. But if you’re concerned about your overall health, and I hope you are, then the type of fat you use matters very much.

The most healthful fats are in liquid form. Olive oil, canola oil, corn oil, and other liquid fats are thought to be best because they can help keep your blood cholesterol and blood fats at acceptable levels. The fats to watch out for are the hydrogenated fats (oils that have been chemically converted to solid fats), which are listed on the ingredient labels of many processed foods such as crackers and pastries, and the saturated fats found mainly in animal products such as meats, butter, and whole milk dairy products. In the case of animal foods, you can easily trim away excess fat from meats and choose leaner cuts of meat and reduced fat dairy foods.

Your body needs some fat (at least 20 grams) to help absorb and transport fat soluble vitamins, such as vitamins A and E; your skin and hair need fat to look alive; and your brain and nervous system need fat to function effectively. But eating too many foods that are high in any type of fat can, and probably will, cause you to gain weight and affect your health. Medical experts say that no more than 30 percent of your daily calories should come from fat and many recommend even less. On a 1,500-calorie diet, 30 percent is about 50 grams of fat. The smart thing to do, overall, is to eat small amounts of the right types of fat.

Don’t be fooled into thinking that all lowfat foods are low in calories. Some are, but many aren’t. Check and compare the calorie counts on the labels of similar products to be sure you’re getting a lower calorie food. For instance, many reduced fat cheeses contain one-third to half the amount of calories of their full-fat cousins. But the same can’t be said for some flavored yogurt products and other foods, like peanut butter or cookies, that may have the fat removed but are sweetened with enough sugar to make up the calorie difference.

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