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Posted: Wed Jun 07, 2006 11:01 pm Post subject: Low Fat Food Tips
You've probably heard that too much fat in your diet can increase your risk of developing heart disease. (Read about "Coronary Heart Disease") But how much is too much? According to the National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP), for the average healthy adult, daily intake of saturated fats should be less than 7 percent of the total daily calories and overall fat intake should be less than 35 percent of total daily calories. (NCEP says some individuals, such as patients with high triglycerides, may need a higher fat intake; consult with your doctor.)
Here are some suggestions from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and the American Heart Association to put your diet more in line with those guidelines:
Read nutrition labels. Food labels show you how much fat is in a product, in terms of both grams and in terms of calories. Food labels also show you how much saturated fat is in a particular item, as well as the percentage of total calories that amount would represent for someone on a 2000 calorie/day diet. Be aware that even if a food claims to have "no cholesterol" on the front of the package, it may still be high in fat and saturated fat. So always read the fine print. (Read about "Food Labels")
Cooking styles. Even healthy foods can turn into diet disasters if they're fried or coated with butter and oil during cooking. Try to adapt to lower-fat cooking styles such as steaming, as well as stir-frying and baking with a minimum amount of oil. It's also important to trim off any visible fat from meat before cooking.
Portion size. It's easy to overestimate the amount of food that makes up a "portion." For example, if your diet plan calls for a 3-ounce portion of meat, that's about the size of a deck of playing cards. Eating portions that are too large means you're getting more fat than you should be.
Food choices. Another way to reduce the amount of fat in your diet is to increase your intake of fruits, vegetables and grains. (Read about "Fiber and Health") Most fruits and vegetables are fat-free. (The exceptions are avocados, olives, and coconuts.) Pastas and breads are usually low in fat (read labels to make sure). (Read about "Dietary Guidelines")
Types of Fats
In addition to making healthier choices when it comes to food selection and preparation, it's also important to be aware of the different types of fat.
Saturated fats have been linked to higher levels of blood cholesterol. (Read about "Cholesterol") Saturated fats are the ones mostly found in animal products (meat, butter, and whole milk for example) and they tend to be solid at room temperature. Certain oils (coconut, palm and palm kernel oil) are also high in saturated fat. Saturated fats can raise your blood cholesterol level. NCEP says people should limit their intake of saturated fats to less than 7 percent of their total daily calorie consumption.
Unsaturated fats (safflower, sunflower, corn, canola, and olive oil for example) tend to be liquid at room temperature. According to the American Dietetic Association, unsaturated fats can help lower overall blood cholesterol levels, as long as they are used within moderation as part of an overall healthy reduced-fat diet.
The benefits of unsaturated fats are lost, however, when they undergo a process called "hydrogenation" which solidifies them so they have a longer shelf-life in processed foods. According to the American Medical Association (AMA), these hydrogenated trans fats or trans-fatty acids (the kind found in shortening and margarine for example) can actually raise total cholesterol levels. Again, read labels carefully to make sure you're not getting too much of the wrong kinds of fat, as well as too much fat overall.
Keep in mind, however, that fats can also serve an important role in diet. Fats, for example, help our bodies utilize so-called fat soluble vitamins such as Vitamin A and Vitamin D.
The AMA also cautions that extremely low-fat diets, which can be very high in carbohydrates, may actually be harmful for people who have certain conditions including high triglycerides, low HDL cholesterol and high blood sugar.
So when cutting down on fat, you should think twice before trying to eliminate fats entirely; for mosmost people, within the right guidelines, a certain amount of fat is needed in the diet.
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