The role of fat in your everyday diet

Fat is not always the enemy, it is an essential component of your everyday health.

Have you heard myths about avoiding all fats or that all fats are bad for you? Well think again!

It is important to have some fat in our diets. Some types of fats contain essential fatty acids that are necessary for good health. Fats also help the body to use certain types of vitamins. However, eating too much of certain kinds of fats has been linked to heart disease and other types of chronic diseases. Therefore, the USDA makes the following recommendations in the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans:

  • Consume less than 10 percent of calories from saturated fatty acids by replacing them with monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids.
  • Consume less than 300 mg per day of dietary cholesterol.
  • Keep trans fatty acid consumption as low as possible, especially by limiting foods that contain synthetic sources of trans fats, such as partially hydrogenated oils, and by limiting other solid fats.
  • Reduce the intake of calories from solid fats and added sugars.

Here are some actions you can take every day to keep your consumption of both saturated fats, trans fats and cholesterol low while consuming a nutritionally adequate diet.

  • Check the Nutrition Facts panel to compare foods. Choose foods lower in saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol. For saturated fat and cholesterol, Five percent Daily Value or less is low for saturated fat and cholesterol while twenty percent Daily Value or more is high. Remember, there is no percent Daily Value for trans fat.
  • Choose alternative fats. Replace saturated and trans fats in your diet with monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Sources of monounsaturated fats include olive and canola oils. Sources of polyunsaturated fats include soybean, corn, sunflower oils, and foods like nuts.
  • Choose vegetable oils and soft margarines (liquid, tub, or spray) more often because the combined amount of saturated and trans fats are lower than the amount in solid shortenings, hard margarines and animal fats, including butter.
  • Consider fish. Most fish are lower in saturated fat than meat.
  • Limit foods high in cholesterol such as liver and other organ meats, egg yolks and full-fat dairy products like whole milk.
  • Choose foods low in saturated fat such as fat-free or 1% dairy products, lean meats, fish, skinless poultry, whole grain foods, and fruit and vegetables.

Daily essential fatty acid consumption contributes to our overall daily health in moderation. For more information please contact your local MSU Extension office or visit the MSU Extension Health and Nutrition site.

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