Should we fear fat?

Low fat foods – what does it mean?

Fat is needed to maintain good health. Some examples of natural, unsaturated fats include nuts, oils, avocados and eggs.

Fat is needed to maintain good health. Some examples of natural, unsaturated fats include nuts, oils, avocados and eggs.

While shopping with a friend, she came across cherry licorice labeled “fat free” and asked, “It must be healthy, right?” Since fat is known as being unhealthy, it would lead many to believe that you could have as much fat free cherry licorice as you would like. You probably have come across a food product such as candy, cookies, cakes, puddings, salad dressing or ice cream that was labeled fat free or low fat. Can eating low fat foods promote weight loss and decrease your risk of chronic disease?

Americans got used to buying fat free or low fat food products while trying to be healthier. But to compensate for the change in flavor and texture of the food, companies added more sodium, sugar and refined grains to their products. Consuming high amounts of these foods further increased America’s obesity rate and did not decrease the risk of chronic disease.  Eating more refined grains (white bread, white rice and potatoes) in place of saturated fats does not promote weight loss because the excess amount of refined grains eaten turns into fat that is stored in your blood. Michigan State University Extension states that we don’t need to focus on completely removing fat from our diet, but we should be more concerned with the types of fats we are eating.

Fat is needed to maintain good health.  It is found in almost all foods – even carrots and lettuce contain trace amounts of fat.  It is nearly impossible for anyone to eat a fat free diet. The major forms of dietary fat are fatty acids, which include unsaturated fats, saturated fats and Trans fats. Unsaturated fats are the healthy fats that help lower your bad cholesterol, protect your heart and decrease your risk of heart disease.

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends these ways to include more healthy fats in your diet:

  • Eat nuts: Try a handful of almonds, walnuts, peanuts or add some to a salad, trail mix or yogurt, or try natural nut butters which are loaded with heart healthy oils.
  • Use healthy oils: Try using olive or canola oil when cooking in place of butter.
  • Eat avocados:  Add them to a salad, pizza, soup, salsa, eggs or sandwiches.
  • Eat flaxseed: Try adding ground flaxseed to your cereal, yogurt, smoothies or flaxseed oil as a salad dressing.
  • Eat fortified eggs: Some chickens are given feed rich in healthy fats so that their eggs will be higher in heart healthy fats.
  • Eat fatty fish: Include more tuna (fresh or canned), sardines, trout or mackerel in your diet at least twice a week.

These foods are high in healthy unsaturated fats but they still contain a small amount of saturated fats. Some foods that are high in saturated fats are butter, lard, full fat dairy products, fried foods and red meats. It is essential to include all fats in our diet while remembering to keep saturated fats low and increase our intake of healthy unsaturated fats.

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