Eating Healthy Doesn't Mean Giving Up All the Fats
By Michael Lasalandra
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center Correspondent
If you want to eat healthy, you should be vigilant about avoiding fatty foods as much as possible, right?
Absolutely not, says Elisabeth Moore, dietitian at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.
"We do actually need fat in our diet," she says. "There are good fats and bad fats. We want to limit saturated fats and avoid trans fats. But we do want to eat unsaturated fats."
Weight loss is tied to overall calorie consumption, not whether or not you consume fats, she notes. "Too many calories is what makes us fat," she says. "The problem with fats in general is that they are calorie dense. So you want to pay attention to portion size."
Fats are necessary in our diets because they supply essential fatty acids that help cells function properly, she says. Fats carry certain vitamins -- A, D, E and K -- into and around the body. Fat is also important to maintaining healthy skin and proper eyesight.
But fat carries 9 calories per gram, more than twice the calories as carbohydrates and proteins. So it is best to limit fat consumption, even if it is the good kind of fat found, for example, in nuts or peanut butter.
"Keep it to two tablespoons of peanut butter in each peanut butter and jelly sandwich," Moore says.
Fats in plant-based products such as nuts, avocados or olive, canola or vegetable oils are good fats -- unsaturated fats that can help lower bad cholesterol and increase good cholesterol and promote heart health.
Fats in fish such as salmon, tuna, trout and sardines are also good fats that contain omega-3 fatty acids. They also improve heart health by lowering blood triglycerides.
Bad fats are those found in animal meat or animal products such as butter, cream and cheese. These are high in saturated fat. Such fats are also put into many foods such as cookies and cakes to improve flavor.
Even worse are trans fats, manmade fats put into certain foods, such as cookies and snack foods, to make them look and taste fresh, Moore says. They may also be found in fried foods, although she says restaurants are trying to eliminate trans fats by changing the oil in their fryolators more often.
Diets rich in saturated and trans fats raise cholesterol levels and contribute to clogged arteries.
While many foods are being promoted as being "low fat," they aren't always a good choice, Moore says.
Low-fat yogurts, for example, are healthy, but low-fat cookies may include more sugar -- and thus more calories -- to offset the lack of fat.
American Heart Association recommends we get 20 percent to 35 percent of our calories from fat, with most coming from sources of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fatty acids such as fish, nuts and vegetable oils.
Above content provided by Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. For advice about your medical care, consult your doctor.
Posted June 2009