Fat-free, low-fat, trans-fats, good fats, bad fats; Do you find yourself confused about all the different types of fat and wonder how much you should eat or if you should be eating any at all? Fat is a nutrient that gets a lot of negative attention, but we do need some fat in our diets to maintain good health. In addition to helping food taste good, dietary fat provides us with energy, essential fatty acids and helps us absorb fat soluble vitamins, A, D, E and K.
When considering fat in your diet, it is important to pay attention to both the amount and type as not all fats are created equal. Most of the fat in your diet should come from unsaturated fats including poly and monounsaturated fats. Polyunsaturated fats, found in fish and various oils such as corn, safflower, sunflower, soybean and sesame, help to lower total blood cholesterol, when used in place of saturated fats. Monounsaturated fats, found in olive oil and canola oil, help to lower “bad” LDL cholesterol and also increase “good” HDL cholesterol when used in place of saturated fats.
Fats that you should limit in your diet to reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease include saturated and trans fats. Saturated fats, found mainly in animal products such as higher fat meats and whole fat dairy foods, and also in tropical oils such as palm and coconut, cause our liver to make more total and “bad” LDL cholesterol. Trans fats, which are formed when vegetable oil is hydrogenated, act like saturated fat in our body and can raise “bad” LDL cholesterol levels and also lower “good” HDL cholesterol. Trans fats are often found in fried and processed foods and also in commercial baked goods and margarines.
The amount of fat we need depends on many factors such as our age and calorie needs. Aim to keep your total fat intake between 20-35% of your calories. (For someone on a 2000 calorie diet, this would equal 44- 78 grams of fat/day.) Aim to limit saturated fat intake to less than 10% of your calories. (This would be 20 grams or less per day for someone on a 2000 calorie diet.) As for trans fats, keep those as low as possible.