Eat Beat

Fat and Friendly
We need moderate amounts of food fats, but some are healthier for us.

by Althea Zanecosky

For years health organizations have advised Americans to “cut the fat” when eating for disease prevention. But the fact is we all need fat.

Fat helps with nutrient absorption. A new study shows that people who consumed salads with fat-free salad dressing absorbed far less of helpful antioxidants and vitamins from spinach, lettuce, tomatoes and carrots than those who consumed their salads with a salad dressing containing fat.

Fat is also used for nerve transmission, and in building and maintaining cell membranes. It helps build healthy hair and skin, protects vital organs, keeps your body insulated and provides a sense of fullness after meals.

When consumed in excess amounts, however, fat contributes to weight gain, heart disease and certain types of cancer.

What really matters is the type of fat you eat. What are the healthy fats? Here is a list of those recommended by doctors and dietitians:

Food with Healthy Fat
Olive oil A monounsaturated fat. Helps protect heart health & may reduce risk of some cancers. Use as dip for bread, in salad dressings & to sauté vegetables (with garlic for extra
Soybean and canola oil and spreads A monounsaturated oil, rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Helps reduce risk of heart disease & may lower the risk of stroke. Use in baking & cooking to avoid the stronger flavor of olive oil. Used in butter substitutes with no trans fat or cholesterol.
Fish: salmon, tuna, trout, striped bass, mackerel, herring,
Primary source of omega-3 fatty acids. Reduces the risk of heart disease & sudden cardiac death. Two 4- to 6-ounce servings weekly are recommended.
Nuts: almonds,
walnuts, pecans, peanuts
Contain poly- & monounsaturated fats that can reduce LDL (bad) choles- terol & total cholesterol levels. Eat alone as a healthy snack. Add to salads for extra crunch. Process into crumbs & use to bread a fish filet or boneless chicken breast.
Flax or hemp seeds Rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Helps control inflammation & blood pressure. Toss into salads, soups, stews, or casseroles.
Dairy and beef
(especially from grass-fed animals)
Contains conjugated linol-eic acids (CLAs), shown to fight arteriosclerosis &
several types of cancer.
Choose small portions of cheese (1-2 ounces) or beef (4-6 ounces).
Remember that all fat is high in calories. Fat contains nine calories per gram compared to four calories per gram for protein or carbohydrate. Diets high in fat are usually higher in calories, which can lead to obesity. In this way, fat is an indirect risk factor for diseases linked with excessive weight, including cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke and diabetes.

So be moderate in your fat consumption. The USDA Dietary Guidelines recommend adults get between 20 and 35 percent of calories from fat and children older than age 2 get 25 to 35 percent.

For an adult eating about 2,000 calories per day, that means eating between 44 and 77 grams of fat. A child eating 1,200 calories a day should consume between 33 and 47 grams of fat.

So don’t cut fat out of your family’s diet, just look for foods with the right kinds of fat, in moderate amounts.

Althea Zanecosky is a Philadelphia registered dietitian and national spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association.