Types of Fat
High-fat diets have been linked to increased risk of serious health conditions, including heart disease, obesity and cancer. There has been much controversy about the right amount and types of fat that should be included in a healthy diet. While trans-fats and saturated fats are considered bad fats because they raise cholesterol and may lead to heart disease, monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats are considered good fats for their ability to lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease.
Guidelines for Daily Consumption of Fats
Current recommendations suggest limiting fats to 30% of your diet, or 60 grams per day in a 1,800 calorie per day diet. 20% of fat intake should come from good fats, the monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats. Only 10% of fat intake should come from trans-fats and saturated fats.
The USDA’s Continuing Survey of Food Intakes by Individuals studies shows that actual consumption of fats averages 83 grams per day, or 138% of the recommended daily allowance. According to the Third Report on Nutrition Monitoring in the United States, less than 25% of adults eat less than the recommended daily intake of fats. For children and adolescents the numbers are even worse, at less than 18%. The consumption of high-fat foods has been on the rise for the last two decades in spite of the wide availability of low-fat options.
Reducing Fat Intake
Many people reduce their intake of fat by lowering their consumption of whole fat dairy, red meats, and high-fat condiments such as mayonnaise or butter. It should be noted that children under 2 should not be placed on fat-restricted diets due to growth and development needs and adults should be careful to ensure they consume an adequate amount of essential fats, such as omega-3 fatty acids.
To Eat or Not to Eat?
Transitioning to a low-fat diet is easier than ever with a wide variety of low-fat alternatives available. By making some very simple dietary changes, it is possible to lose weight, protect heart health, and lower your risk of serious health conditions.
- Foods containing hydrogenated oils and trans-fats have been shown by a growing body of research to be harmful to your health and should be avoided or consumed in only limited quantities.
- Vegetable sautéed in butter or vegetable oils should be reduced or eliminated. Try sautéing vegetables in flavored broths as an alternative.
- Red meats, such as steaks with marbling have high-fat content. Look for leaner meats and trim the fat before eating. Also, remove the skin from poultry before eating, or remove the skin and braise or sauté in chicken broth.
- Whole fat dairy products can be substituted with low-fat and non-fat alternatives, such as fat free or 2% milk, and low-fat cheese.
- High-fat condiments such mayonnaise, butter and salad dressings should be reduced or eliminated. Order these items on the side when dining out and use them sparingly at home.
A healthy low-fat diet should include whole grains, beans, fruits, vegetables, raw nuts, seeds, olive, flax seed and soybean oils, and cold-water fish such as salmon, herring and mackerel.
Understanding the Terminology of Food Labels
- Fat Free refers to any item containing 1/2 gram of fat or less per serving.
- Saturated Fat Free refers to any item containing 1/2 gram of fat or less per serving and trans-fat do not comprise more than 1% of total fats.
- Low-fat refers to any item containing 3 grams or less of fat per serving or per 50 grams of food.
- Low saturated fat refers to 1 gram or less of fat per serving and not more than 15% of the calories derived from saturated fat.
- Reduced Fat refers to food that contains 25% less fat than their whole fat counterparts.
- Reduced or Less Saturated Fat refers to foods that contain 25% less fat and saturated fat than their whole fat counterparts.
Living a Longer, Healthier Low-Fat Life
For many, following a low-fat diet is simply common sense. Low-fats diets are ideal for those who want to lose weight, lower their risk of adverse health conditions, or have a family history of heart disease or cancer. With a greater awareness of the health related risks of a high-fat diet, many people are conscious of wanting to do more to live longer, healthier lives, and a low-fat diet is one of the most effective ways of achieving that goal.