By Patrice Powers-Barker, OSU Extension, Lucas County
The Truth Contributor
Even though “fat” has a reputation for being unhealthy, there are both healthy and unhealthy options in our foods. The body needs dietary fat for:
- Storing energy
- Supporting cell growth and function
- Protecting organs
- Keeping warm
- Absorbing some nutrients and vitamins
- Fat also adds flavor and texture to food.
Not all fats are the same. Some healthy dietary fats are essential and help prevent some diseases. Other types of fat are not so healthy and increase the risk for disease. To figure out the details of what your body needs, talk to your health care provider or a registered dietitian nutritionist. Our health and wellness rely on many factors including the food we eat. The recommendations below are about dietary fat in food.
There are four main fats found in food: saturated fat, trans fats, monounsaturated fat and polyunsaturated fat. Saturated fat and trans fat are unhealthy and might be labeled “bad” while monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are healthy and considered “good”.
Limit Unhealthy Fats
Saturated fat is typically found in animal products and tropical oils that are solid at room temperature. Some of those food products include: processed meats, poultry with skin, lard, dairy products like butter, cream, whole milk, cream sauces, oils from coconuts, palm fruits, or palm kernels, foods baked or fried using saturated fats.
Unfortunately, saturated fats can add up quickly in foods that combine ingredients. In U.S. diets, the most common sources of saturated fats are sandwiches, burgers, tacos and burritos — foods that usually combine meat and dairy products. Baked goods with butter, full-fat ice cream and other desserts are also common sources of saturated fats.
For a heart-healthy diet, you want to eat as little trans fat as possible. Read the nutrition label and the ingredients list on food labels. Look for words like hydrogenated oil or partially hydrogenated oil. Avoid foods that where a liquid oil is listed first on the ingredients list. Sources of trans fats include: processed foods like crackers, chips, and baked goods with hydrogenated oil or partially hydrogenated oil, margarines, shortening, and some fast food items such as French fries.
The Good Fats
Unsaturated fats are often liquid at room temperature (like vegetable oil). They are found in vegetable oils, fish, nuts, and some vegetables. There are two main types of unsaturated fat: monounsaturated fat and polyunsaturated fat. Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids are two types of polyunsaturated fat that are also linked with improved heart health. A few foods and beverages are fortified with omega-3s. The nutrients have been added to eggs, milk, or soy drinks. This is often noted on the package label.
Healthy Food Choices
Fortunately, there are many options of foods with healthy fat that can be used instead of the previous list of foods that are high in saturated fat or trans fat. The foods that have healthy fats include: avocado, nuts like almonds, cashews, pecans, peanuts, and walnuts, peanut butter, sunflower seeds, ground flaxseeds, chia seeds, oily fish (salmon, sardines, herring, mackerel, tuna), and Canola oil, Safflower Oil, Olive oil and olives.
Recommendations on healthy food choices
- A nutritious eating plan doesn’t mean cutting out all fat, just focus on healthier varieties. Begin with small changes.
- Substitute olive or canola oil instead of butter, margarine or shortening when cooking.
- Sprinkle a few nuts, sunflower seeds, chia seeds, or ground flaxseed on a salad, yogurt or cereal.
- Use those same seeds as ingredients in homemade baked goods such as muffins.
- Substitute a small handful of nuts for chips or other fried snacks.
- Enjoy an avocado in a salad, salsa or sandwich,
Connect with OSU Extension, Lucas County. These free, community lessons are not specific to food and nutrition but might be of interest if you have a goal to declutter the kitchen or to grow a few vegetables this year. No experience necessary. Calendar at lucas.osu.edu
- Friday, April 7, 12-1pm, From Plant to Plate II, at ProMedica Ebeid Institute, 1806 Madison Ave
- Tuesday, April 11, 6:30-7:30pm, Clutter Free Living at Mott Library
- Monday, April 24, 7-8pm, Clutter Free Living at West Toledo Library
- Monday, May 1, 1-2pm, Clutter Free Living at Sylvania Library
- Friday, May 5, 12 -1pm, From Plant to Plate III, at ProMedica Ebeid Institute, 1806 Madison Ave
- Friday June 2, 12-1pm, From Plant to Plate IV, at ProMedica Ebeid Institute, 1806 Madison Ave
Eating foods with fats can be part of a healthier diet. Pay attention to the types of fats and also eat the recommended serving sizes. All fats, even the healthy ones are high in calories. Choosing healthy dietary fat options are recommended by the American Diabetes Association, American Dietetic Association, and the American Heart Association.