Dietary fat provides energy and calories for the body. Our body makes it's own fat from the excess calories we consume through the food we eat everyday, acting as a storage medium for the body's extra calories. It fills the fat cells (adipose tissue) which help insulate the body. Dietary fats provide linolenic (Omega 3) and linoleic acid (Omega 6) which are essential fatty acids, that cannot be made by the body and has be obtained from food. They are important for controlling inflammation, blood clotting, brain development and numerous other body functions. Now this means, our body requires fat, but in moderate amounts. The good fat or unsaturated fat from foods are of two kinds, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, which our body needs. It's the saturated fats, trans fats and hydrogenated fats that should be avoided. They build up bad cholesterol.
Monosaturated Fats - Contained in olive oil, canola oil, black or green olives, sesame oil, almonds, peanuts, cashews, pecans, pistachios, avacados
Polyunsaturated fats - Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids in safflower, fish oils, sunflower, corn oil and soya bean, olive oil, salmon, sardines, flax seeds, walnuts.
Saturated fats - butter, cheese, whole milk, ice cream, cream, fatty meats
Trans fats - commercially prepared foods such as packaged popcorn, french fries, muffins, cakes, pizza dough, pie crust, chocolate drink mixes, potato chips, candy, frozen foods, soups, certain noodles, fast food, fried foods, processed foods, margarines
Hydrogenated fats - hard butter, margarine, vegetable shortening, non-dairy whipped dessert topping, cake frosting, white bread, non-dairy creamers, tortilla, fast food, donuts, peanut butter, icecream, white bread
* Olive oil contains both omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids.
Consuming the wrong kinds or excess fat has an unavoidable and dangerous dark side to it. Foods high in fat leads to weight gain, obesity, overstimulates the hormonal system, clogs arteries and increases the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and cancer of the reproductive organs (ovaries, cervix). Also can lead to rectal, cervical, prostate, colon and breast cancer.
It's important to observe your diet, take a serious look at your eating habits. How much of fat do you consume? What kind of fat is present in your every day food (breakfast, lunch and dinner)? Do you consume food containing saturated fats, trans fats and hydrogenated fats or do you make a conscious choice of having healthy fats in moderation? Do you read food labels before you purchase them? Here are some tips for what to avoid and what to have to ensure your body gets the right kind of fat in just the right amounts for a healthy lifestyle.
- Go for lean meat, fish, skinless chicken, and fat-free or low fat dairy products (low fat cheese, skimmed milk, low fat yoghurt).
- Eat fruits and vegetables that are naturally low in fat.
- Avoid fried foods, processed foods, and commercially prepared baked goods (pastries, cakes, cookies, donuts)
- Consume less of egg yolks, cheese, whole milk, cream, ice cream, and red or fatty meats.
- Read food label for presence and level of saturated fat and avoid or limit such food.
- When you find food label that says "hydrogenated" or "partially hydrogenated", avoid them, they are loaded with bad fats.
- Use less oil in your cooking.
- Few tablespoons of olive oil for cooking or in your salads will contribute to good health.
- Include food containing monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats (oil and nuts must be consumed in moderation; for any excess calories will get converted to fat)