As the winter holidays come around, you’ll likely be surrounded by family, friends, and plenty of good food. However, many of these foods can be high in fat. Learn which fats are bad and which ones are good for your health. Then you can make smarter food choices.
We need a certain amount of fat in our diets to stay healthy. Fats provide the necessary energy in the form of calories. Fats help our bodies absorb important vitamins – called fat-soluble vitamins – including vitamins A, D and E. Fats also make foods more flavorful and help us feel full. Fats are especially important for infants and young children because dietary fats contribute to proper growth and development.
“Fat is really the most concentrated source of energy in the foods we eat, and our bodies need that energy,” says NIH nutrition expert Dr. Margaret McDowell. “Fat is really an essential nutrient.”
However, problems arise if we eat too much fat. Dietary fats contain more than twice as many calories per gram as proteins or carbohydrates such as sugar and starch. Excess calories can, of course, lead to weight gain and an increased risk of diabetes, cancer, and other conditions.
Eating the “wrong” types of fats can lead to additional health risks. “Some fats are better for our bodies than others,” McDowell says. “We should really aim to eat the right kinds of fats.”
Foods can contain a mixture of different fats.They are considered “good” fats. They are sometimes listed as “monounsaturated” and “polyunsaturated” fats on Nutrition Facts labels. These can enhance health if taken in appropriate amounts. They are usually liquid at room temperature and are known as oils. You’ll find healthy unsaturated fats in fish, nuts, and most vegetable oils, including canola, corn, olive, and safflower oils.
The so-called “bad” fatsAnd the . It tends to be solid at room temperature. Solid fats include butter, meat fat, margarine, ghee, and coconut and palm oils. It is often found in chocolate, baked goods, and fried and processed foods.
“When we eat a lot of solid fats, we put our bodies at risk. These fats tend to raise the total bloodplus a portion of cholesterol known as low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol.” “When these cholesterol levels are out of control and very high, they are a risk factor for cardiovascular disease.”
“When there is too much cholesterol in the blood, the excess can get stuck in the arterial walls and build up,” adds Dr. Catherine Luria, an expert in nutrition and heart health at the National Institutes of Health. “The buildup can progress to atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries, which can lead to coronary heart disease.”
Experts say the total fat intake for adults 19 and older should be 20 to 35 percent of calories ingested daily. For children ages 4 to 18, the ratio should be between 25 and 35 percent.
Experts also say you should get less than 10 percent of your calories from saturated fatty acids. Studies funded by the National Institutes of Health show that replacing solid fats in your diet with healthy unsaturated fats can have a positive effect. “When you look at total fat intake, using trans fats in place of some saturated fats actually lowers total cholesterol levels, primarily LDL cholesterol levels, which is a good thing,” Luria says.
Other research funded by the National Institutes of Health has found that when it comes to losing weight, the source of your calories—whether from fat, protein, or carbohydrates—is not nearly as important as the number of calories you consume. But when it comes to risk factors for heart disease, replacing some carbohydrates with protein or unsaturated fats can significantly improve blood cholesterol. In a specialized diet designed to lower blood pressure, using trans fats in place of some carbohydrates increased blood levels of “good” cholesterol (HDL cholesterol) and caused blood pressure to drop more healthily.
“It’s all about becoming a label reader,” says Joanne Gallivan, a registered dietitian who heads the National Institutes of Health’s National Diabetes Education Program. To eat healthy, she says, “you need to read the Nutrition Facts label to find out how much fat and calories are in the food, the amounts per serving, and the percentage of calories that come from fat.” The nutrition label also shows the amounts of unhealthy saturated and trans fats.
However, eating healthy fats and less total fat can be especially challenging during the holidays. “You want to enjoy the food and party. You shouldn’t think of the holidays as a time to deprive yourself,” says McDowell.
One way to reduce fat at holiday gatherings is to reduce your portion sizes. “Choose more lean meats, such as poultry without the skin. Eat more fruits, vegetables, and foods made with whole grains.
When preparing recipes, try to use low-fat ingredients. “Milk and low-fat and fat-free yogurt still contain the important protein and minerals found in the full-fat versions, but you get less saturated fat and cholesterol,” McDowell says. “In some recipes, you can use applesauce or egg whites in place of the oil. In general, bake, grill or grill instead of frying.”
Learn to read between the lines on the Nutrition Facts labels. “If a food is labeled ‘low fat,’ it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s low in calories,” Gallivan says. “Non-fat cookies, crackers, and other products may have added sugar and salt to enhance its taste. Added sugar can add calories, and can Too much salt can raise blood pressure.
“If you’re indulging a little bit during the holidays, just make sure you’re back the next day to follow a healthy meal plan and be active,” Gallivan says. And remember that when it comes to saturated or trans fats in your diet, it will help your health if you choose wisely and cut back on fats.
“Weight on dietary fat It was originally published by the National Institutes of Health.”
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