Recent media attention portrays fat in simple "good" and "bad" categories. In reality, it's not that simple. Science is what holds the real truth. It's not just one or two studies that provide real proof; it's a number of similar studies with the same results that make an acceptable body of evidence.
Fats are divided into categories based on their chemical composition. When it comes to health, the effect of these categories is different. For instance, saturated fat - or solid fat - tends to promote heart disease because it can clog arteries and lead to heart attacks. Trans fat does the same. Unsaturated - or liquid - fat does not clog arteries. That is why it's often referred to as a "healthier" choice. Plant-based oils, like olive, canola and soybean are familiar examples.
The updated 2015 Dietary Guidelines, scheduled for release later this year, will no longer restrict the amount of total fat. Instead, they'll ask Americans to focus on the type of fat they eat. Specifically, the Guidelines will suggest eating little or no trans fat; and reduce saturated fat to less than10% of total daily calories. The American Heart Association already has similar guidelines in place. Both based their recommendations on health benefits (and risks) demonstrated by years of research, not about value judgments of good/bad.
Choose the right fat is a positive way to look at dietary fat. Again, that means selecting plant-based oils (canola, soybean, olive), avocado, soft spreads (like Country Crock), nuts (almonds, walnuts), seafood (salmon, tuna). Remember, the type of fat is more important than the amount of fat.
Let's not demonize, however. Fat is an important nutrient. It provides energy, plays important roles in health - and makes food taste good!
There IS room for some saturated fat; just do it wisely. Buy meat with less visible fat (lean) and eat poultry without skin; use spreads* instead of butter, and opt for low/fat-free dairy products.
When shopping for food labels are the best tool. Total fat and fat type (saturated, trans, etc.) are clearly listed on separate lines. Pick items with 0 grams trans fat per serving. Try to use recipes with low amounts of saturated fat. Consider making more meatless meals; or prepare entrees that have more whole grains and veggies with smaller amounts of animal protein – that means less saturated fat. Enjoy Confident Health. It’s delicious!
*Spreads are the name for what many know as margarine. Those margarine sticks have been mostly replaced by spreads made with plant-based oils.
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