Fat, how much and what type we eat, has been a hot topic in the news for years. Whether about weight control, heart health, diabetes or cancer risk, fat in our diet has a large impact on our lives.
During the fat-phobic era of the 90’s fat-free and reduced fat foods were marketed as the latest and greatest way to take control of your weight and health. This often resulted in overconsumption of high sugar, highly processed low fat foods such as fat-free cookies, cakes and other items that promoted excess consumption. Now as more research is analyzed, we know that different types of fats can have different effects on our health.
Trans fat, saturated fats and cholesterol raises blood cholesterol, which in turn can increase risk of heart disease. Trans fat is an unsaturated fat, which may seem like it should be healthier. However, it acts like a saturated fat in the body, raising the LDL (bad) cholesterol levels and lowers the HDL (good) cholesterol. Trans fat is formed when liquid oil is processed to make it more solid. Food manufacturers use trans fats for taste, texture, and shelf-life enhancement of packaged and processed foods. Most trans fats are found in stick margarine, snack foods, fried foods and pastries. You can find information about the trans fat content of foods on the Nutrition Facts label on food products.
Choose healthier fats whenever possible, including those from olive, canola, soybean and corn oils, as well as fats from fish, nuts and avocados. Remember, all fats are high in calories, so even eating too much of healthy fats can add more calories to your diet than you might like. Keep in mind also that dietary patterns, not individual nutrients, are what influence health, weight management and disease risk reduction. Dietary patterns associated with better health and weight management include the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) and the Mediterranean diet pattern, both which encourage generous use of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans, legumes and nuts, small portions of lean meat, chicken and fish, and lower fat dairy. However, even with these recommendations, diet choices and patterns should be individualized for various needs, cultures and lifestyle for sustainability. See a Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist for real world and science based nutrition advice.
Mediterranean diet pattern tips:
1. Include vegetables at most meals. Choose a variety of colors. Fresh, frozen and even canned can be used to fill up a good portion of your plate.
2. A little bit of meat goes a long way. Use about a quarter of your plate for lean meat fish or poultry. A serving of meat is 3 ounces (or the size of a deck of cards).
3. Fuel up at breakfast with healthful choices such as whole grains, low-fat dairy such as yogurt and cottage cheese, fruit, nuts/nut butters or avocados.
4. Enjoy seafood twice per week. 3.5 ounces of fatty fish is recommended 2-3 times per week. Salmon, tuna, herring and sardines are also rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are beneficial for heart health and easy sources of good quality protein.
5. As an alternative to meat, consider planning meals around cooked beans by including them in dishes such as meatless chili, bean soups, or add to salads, in a side dish or to a variety of recipes.
6. Use healthful fats which include olive oil, nuts, sunflower seeds, peanuts (unsalted), olives and avocados.
7. Enjoy low-fat dairy. Enjoy Greek, low-fat plain yogurt, skim or 1% milk and small amounts of cheeses.
8. Try fresh fruit for dessert. Choose a variety of fresh, dried or frozen fruits: experiment with pomegranates, dried figs and kiwis. If you enjoy sweets, as most do, pair up a small portion with fresh fruit, and savor the flavors.
This article is courtesy of Palomar Health.