Please!! Just the Facts, Ma'am!

Just the Facts About Good & Bad Fats
Excerpts frojm an Article by Nikki and David Goldbeck; Published online by eDiets.com July 2007

The fat in the food you eat is not the villain many people think it is. As a matter of fact, eating no fat at all is unhealthy. To maintain optimum health, as well as manage your weight, you have to look at not only the amount of fat you eat, but also the sources. Let us introduce you to the essentials of developing a healthy relationship with fat.

What Fat Does for You
Here are just a few of the roles of dietary fats: - Fats provide the raw material for manufacturing the various substances that regulate the immune system, response to inflammation, adrenal and sex gland activity, eyesight and brain development and performance, among other things. Fats influence the "stickiness" of blood, which plays an essential role in heart attacks and stroke. Fats are essential for cell growth and the healing of damaged tissues. The vitamins A, D, E and K and other nutritional factors depend on fat to be absorbed.

This is a small taste of why no-fat and low-fat regimens can be harmful if you don't take in enough of the right fatty acids (the basic components of fat). Taking care of yourself means taking excellent care of your heart. If you're ready to get started, check our Heart Smart Program. We can help you make those important, everyday choices that mean so much to your heart's health.

Make Fat Your Friend, but Not Your Best Friend
This, of course, is not an open invitation to feast on fatty foods. Heart disease and stroke are the first and third leading causes of death respectively in the U.S. -- and fat intake is linked to heart disease and possibly some cancers. An estimated 1-in-3 women over age 65 has some form of cardiovascular disease, and heart attacks are now the number-one killer of American women.

Animal vs. Vegetable
What does it mean when we say pay attention to the source of fats? This refers to the foods that the fats come from (i.e. animal- or plant-derived). In North America and Europe, the fats that most people consume come from foods of animal origin. These contain substantial amounts of saturated fatty acids. By contrast, in most of the rest of the world (where heart disease is less common), the fat the majority of people consume is from plant foods, which are largely mono- and polyunsaturated fatty acids.

This reality that the source of fats is critical to making fat part of a healthy diet is supported by an extensive body of scientific research.

How Do You Measure Up?
If you would like to know how your fat intake balances out, over the course of several days keep a record of the fat-containing foods you eat. How much of these animal sources of fat do you eat?

    Cold cuts/processed meats
    Other birds
    Milk (low fat or full fat)
    Yogurt (low fat or full fat)
    How much of these plant sources of fat do you eat?
    Nuts (list which ones)
    Seeds (sunflower, pumpkin, sesame)
    Nut and seeds butters
    Soy products
    Wheat germ
    Oil (list which ones)
    Processed foods
The Best Ways to Get Fat
Rather than focusing on the amount of fat you eat, the goal is to pay attention to obtaining the proper balance of individual fatty acids. As we said, this isn't an invitation to overindulge in fatty foods, but when fats are in the right proportion, quantity is less of an issue.

Here are some simple guidelines that can help you achieve a healthy fat balance:

#1. Give priority to fat-containing plant foods in their whole form to obtain fatty acids in a natural proportion. For example, sunflower seeds are a better choice than sunflower oil.

The best way to obtain the vegetable-based fatty acids that enhance well-being is to eat full-fat soy products, wheat germ, ground flaxseeds and moderate amounts of nuts and seeds.

Olives, avocados and almonds are also good choices. They contain more of the monounsaturated fatty acids that do not adversely affect fat balance.

#2. Keep fats from animal sources to a minimum. Surprisingly, there is no known requirement for any fats that are found exclusively in animal foods.

Fish is an excellent source of health-promoting fats. (Note, however, that these fats are also available from vegetable fat sources.)

When it comes to dairy foods, nonfat yogurt and YoChee are the best choices. YoChee is naturally thickened yogurt that is a no-fat substitute for sour cream, cream cheese, mayonnaise, etc. (For more info on this amazing food, check out www.YoChee.com.) Cheeses made with skim milk are another option. To keep your fat intake down, don't combine cheese with meat at mealtime, as in cheeseburgers or veal Parmesan. Instead, consider a cheese-topped veggie burger or baked eggplant Parmesan.

Meat-eaters should limit intake to no more than 3 to 6 ounces per day and give priority to the leaner cuts. Although you can skip meat, poultry, fish, eggs and dairy foods, you canít live without protein. Other foods that supply protein include beans, soy products, nuts and seeds.

#3. When you use concentrated fats in the form of oil, for general purposes virgin olive oil is the preferred choice, followed by cold-pressed canola oil. A variety of specialty oils, such as flaxseed, hemp, sesame and specially-bred high-oleic sunflower and safflower oils can also be useful for health and culinary purposes. One oil that has an ideal balance of polyunsaturated fatty acids is hemp oil. To emphasize the omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids similar to those in fish in a non-animal form, try flaxseed oil. Note that both these oils are not for cooking, but for cold applications, such as salad dressing.

4. Avoid any fat described as partially hydrogenated or hydrogenated. The processing technique known as hydrogenation changes the physical construction of fats and interferes with critical biological activities. These fats are found in margarine, vegetable shortening, many commercial cooking oils, as well as many processed foods.

Still in the dark about whether or not you're getting the proper amount of fat? Take the Fat Self-Test below.
- Is your weight inappropriate for your height?
- Are your blood levels of cholesterol (including HDL, LDL and VLDL) and triglycerides above satisfactory range?
- Have you been diagnosed with non-insulin dependent (Type 2) diabetes?
- Do you suffer from any inflammatory ailments such as arthritis, fibromyalgia, polymyalgia, asthma, irritable bowel disease, menstrual cramps, psoriasis or lupus, among others?
- Do you have an illness related to impaired immune function, including chronic infections, fatigue syndrome, HIV/AIDS, and the like?

If you answer YES to any of these questions, your choice of fat-containing foods might be creating problems or need special attention.

Copyright © 2009 Carol Stevens, Shaboom's Kitchen, All Rights Reserved