Everyone has heard about the importance of keeping the level of fat in the diet to a minimum. While some fat in the diet is necessary, most Americans eat far too many fatty foods. Fats do play a vital role in the diet, including in the absorption of important fat soluble vitamins like vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin E and vitamin K. These vitamins are stored in fatty tissues, and dietary fat aids in this process.
Too much fat in the diet, however has been linked to high cholesterol, heart disease and even some kinds of cancers. Eating less fat, especially less saturated fat and trans fats, is an important part of adopting healthier eating habits.
For this reason, it is important to use foods that are high in dietary fats as an occasional snack or treat, and not as a staple of the diet. Many meats are high in fat, so it is important to choose lean cuts of meat whenever possible, and to trim excess fat from steaks and chops. Even some poultry can be high in fat, and for this reason, removing the skin from chicken, and avoiding fatting dark meat, is a good practice to follow.
When planning your healthy eating lifestyle, it is important to remember that fat, whether from plant or animal sources, contains more than twice the number of calories per gram as protein or carbohydrates. Experts recommend that people limit the amount of dietary fat to no more than 30% of total calories. Since fat is so calorie dense, simply cutting back on the number of fat grams per day can result in a significant lowering of daily calorie consumption. That is why low fat diets are so effective as weight loss plans.
Some fats are worse than others – there are both saturated and unsaturated varieties of fats. Unsaturated fats further break down into monounsaturated and polyunsaturated varieties. In general, unsaturated fats are healthier than saturated fats. Saturated fats have been shown to raise levels of cholesterol in the blood more than unsaturated fat. Reducing the level of saturated fats to fewer than 10 percent of daily calories is a proven way to lower levels of cholesterol in the blood.
Meat, milk, dairy products and eggs are the main sources of saturated fats in moth diets. In addition, many baked goods are also rich in saturated fats, since they are often cooked in fatty oils and contain eggs and other fatty ingredients.
When cooking with oils, it is important to choose the healthiest ones. Olive oil and canola oil both use unsaturated fats, and they tend to be very useful in healthy cooking. There are even such things as good fats. In particular, omega-3 oils found in fish are good sources of these fats. Omega-3 oils have been shown to have a protective effect on the heart, and in lowering blood cholesterol levels.
Listed below are some of our favorite tips for keeping dietary fat and cholesterol as low as possible:
- Use fatty cooking oils sparingly
- Make fatting foods an occasional treat, not an everyday source of nutrition
- Pay close attention to the nutritional labels on packaged foods and meats. These labels provide valuable information on fat content, calorie content and nutritional quality
- Eat a diet rich in low fat foods like whole grains, fruits and vegetables
- Choose low fat varieties of your favorite foods whenever possible. There are excellent nonfat varieties of milk, dairy products, baked goods, and more
- Choose lean cuts of meat whenever possible, and trim additional fat before cooking and serving
Cutting fat is not easy, but the many benefits of a low fat diet make it a very worthwhile change. There are few dietary changes that impart as many health benefits as does cutting the fat from your diet. A few changes here and there can add up to a huge change and make a real difference in your health.