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August 20, 2013

Figuring out fats in diet

With terms like good fats and bad fats, conditions like high cholesterol and high triglycerides, low fat diets, and essential fatty acids, fat can be very confusing. Fat is found naturally in many foods and is an essential part of our diet. We are naturally inclined to enjoy the taste of fat, as it was a good source of energy for our ancestors and is essential for brain development in infants and toddlers. 

However, too much fat can lead to a variety of health problems, especially if you are eating a lot of the wrong kind of fat.

So what is the wrong kind of fat? To keep it simple, saturated and trans fats, have both been linked to heart disease. Eating a diet high in these types of fat has been linked to high cholesterol levels in the blood, which is a risk factor for heart disease and heart attack. These types of fats are typically solid at room temperature, like animal fats, butter, stick margarine. Whole milk also has saturated fat, which is why it is recommended for most people to consume only low fat dairy.

Unsaturated fats are actually important for your body, but in moderation. Unsaturated fat is a term used for monounsaturated, omega-3 polyunsaturated, and omega 6 polyunsaturated fats. Unsaturated fats are actually good for your heart. These types of fats are found in oils, nuts, seeds, avocados and fatty fish, like salmon or trout.

Though unsaturated fats may be good for you, like anything, moderation is important. A gram of fat has 9 calories, while a gram of carbohydrate or protein both have only 4 calories. If you keep everything else in your diet the same, reducing fat in your diet will cut calories, hence the 90’s low fat diet craze. The problem with many low fat diets was that people did not reduce the types of foods they were eating that had fat, they ate specialty low fat baked goods and snacks, which often had calories from added sugars and starches.  

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