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Dietary Fats - Understanding Macronutrients

The Body Needs Fat 

Dietary fats are essential to our body’s function. They provide energy to perform activities of daily living (ADLs); support cell growth; protect our vital organs and help to regulate body temperature. Fats also help us to absorb nutrients from our food and they produce important hormones, too. 

Types of Fat

Four (4) major dietary fats exist in the foods we eat:

1. Saturated Fats
2. Trans Fats
3. Monounsaturated Fats
4. Polyunsaturated Fats

The four types have different chemical structures and physical properties and affect our cholesterol levels in different ways.

  • Saturated fats and Trans fats tend to be solid at room temperature.  When over consumed, these types of fats can raise our LDL "lousy" cholesterol levels and increase risk for heart disease, heart attack and stroke.
  • Mono- and Polyunsaturated fats tend to be liquid at room temperature. When appropriate levels are consumed, these types of fats can provide health benefits and increase our HDL "happy" cholesterol levels.

Is Fat Fattening?

All fats contain 9 calories per gram.  Fats are more energy-dense than carbohydrates and proteins, which provide 4 calories per gram.  

Eating too many calories, regardless of where they come from, can lead to weight gain or being overweight.  Read my post Calorie Balance to learn more about calories.  

Can Fats Be Part of Healthy Diet?

Absolutely! Try choosing foods higher in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats whenever possible.  

To get plenty of "happy" fats, emphasize vegetables, fruits, and whole grains in your meals and snacks. To keep total fat intake low, try low-fat dairy products, poultry and fish without skin, legumes, non-tropical vegetable oils and unsalted nuts. Do your best to limit over consumption of sodium, sweets, sugar sweetened beverages and red meats. Also, aim for 20 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity per day (i.e., brisk walking).

To find Fats on your food labels, check out how to understand and use the food label from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Cook it up!

Fat is where it’s at in the kitchen! It provides flavor, moisture and texture to your meal and, as we’ve just read, can be part of a healthy and well-balanced diet. Check out these stacks of recipes here and here for a few ideas on how to have your fat and eat it too!

What's next?



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