If you listen to any health and fitness program on TV and radio, the main topic of discussion is usually on how to lose body fat. It is a serious problem in the US, with about two-thirds of the population having weight issues.
However, the solution may not be simply cutting fats out of your diet; fats are actually an important part of our diet, we cannot survive without them. Fats play a crucial role in the body; they provide us with essential fatty acids that help to keep skin soft, aid delivery of vitamins, and provide fuel for the body’s cells.
Despite this fact, fats are not all the same. There are some good fats and some bad fats. You also need to know that there are limits as to how much fat is a healthy amount. Medical experts recommend that adults get about 30% of all their calories from fats.
However, most Americans exceed the limit set by experts. The reason for this is that fats just taste good. Besides that, they are present in most of the food supply. Fats are good at helping to enhance the food flavors, and they have a great feel inside the mouth.
Is Fat Responsible for the Obesity Epidemic?
Since fat intake is so high, that may lead you to conclude that it is the cause of the obesity problem in the US. However, that is not the case. Obesity is a complex issue that is caused by more than just gorging on fats. Weight gain only happens when you eat more calories from all sources that your body is burning.
In simple terms, anyone who eats a diet rich in calories and gets little to no exercise is going to pile on the pounds. Other factors that come into play are age, sex, lifestyle, and genetics. However, dietary fats do play a huge role in weight gain.
For instance, a gram of dietary fat has 9 calories while protein and carbs only have 4 calories. Alcohol has 7 grams. Besides that, over consuming fats is easy since they are found in most of the foods that we like such as cookies, ice cream, juicy steaks, cheese, and French fries.
Overconsumption of fats has done more than just caused increased body weight. It has been attributed to a rise in type 2 diabetes, heart problems, and some types of cancers. If you want to reduce some of these risks, you will need to educate yourself on the right types of fats to eat.
However, you must keep in mind that even when you choose a healthier fat, it will still have the same effect on your waistline. The only way to lose a few pounds is by reducing your fat intake. Not only will you lose the pounds but it could also help you to live much longer.
A lot of research has linked weight gain to an increased risk of cancer. It is especially so for breast cancer and colon cancer. While reducing fat intake will not affect your risk of cancer, it will help to keep your weight in check, which reduces your risk of cancer.
Understanding Good Fats and Bad Fats
These fats can be divided into saturated and unsaturated fats. Within each of these broad categories, there are more subgroups, which means more types of fats.
These are what are known as the good fat. They are further subdivided into polyunsaturated fatty acids and the monounsaturated fats. When both of these two subcategories are consumed in moderate amounts, they are a great way to replace saturated fats in the body.
The good thing about these fats is that they can reduce the risks of getting heart disease and help to lower cholesterol levels in the body. Polyunsaturated fats are mainly found in vegetable oils. They are excellent lower blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels in the body.
The popular type of polyunsaturated fats is omega-3 fatty acids. This type of fat has many heart health benefits, includes benefits for brain development. Omega-3 mainly exists in fatty fish such as catfish, salmon, and trout.
Besides that, they can be sourced from walnuts and flaxseed. However, the most effective type of omega-3 is found in fish. It is so good that experts recommend you eat at least two servings of fish per week.
If you are a vegetarian, you can still stick to plant sources for omega-3 fatty acids. However, you should be aware that you would not be getting an effective dose as if you consumed fish. However, you want to ensure that you are not consuming deep-fried fish if you are trying to get the full benefits.
If you want to get the full effects of omega-3 fatty acids, ensure you get them from natural sources instead of supplements. In fact, unless you have a risk of getting heart diseases, there is no data showing that supplements reduce your risk of contracting heart disease.
Monounsaturated fats are well-known throughout the world, and their benefits are there for the whole world to see. If you travel to the Mediterranean, people consume diets rich in this fats, and they have been doing so for centuries. It is amongst the reasons why heart disease is almost non-existent in this region.
However, if you come to the US, monounsaturated fats are almost non-existent in their diets. It is amongst the reason why heart disease is so out of control in the country. Even people as young as 30 years are now prone to heart disease thanks to changing lifestyles and diets.
Whenever you drip some bread in olive oil while eating at an Italian joint, you are consuming mainly monounsaturated fats. These types of fats have only one carbon-to-carbon double bond. The result is that it has two fewer hydrogen atoms than saturated fats. This helps to keep these fats liquid at room temperature.
Some of the best sources of monounsaturated fats are avocados, sunflower oils, canola oils, peanut oil, and olive oil. The discovery of the good effects of these fats came out of a study done in the 60s. Researchers wondered why Mediterranean people were not being affected by heart disease despite their high-fat diet.
It was especially so considering that much of the developed world was sinking under the weight of lifestyle diseases at the time. The study found they consumed a lot of fat, but their main source of fat was not animal fat as was common in these other parts of the world. It was olive oil, which was one of the best sources of monounsaturated fats.
Since then, the Mediterranean diet and lifestyle has become quite popular. Most dieticians now study it and try to improve upon it wherever they can. Besides being a source of monounsaturated fats, olive oil is also a great source of vitamin E.
This is another nutrient that is often absent in most American diets. Vitamin E is a great antioxidant, which can help to reduce the risk of cancer and heart disease if consumed in moderate amounts.
The Wrong Type of Fats
Now, about the bad fats; there are two broad categories of these fats. If you must consume them, you can only do so in tiny amounts. Since they have the ability to raise levels of cholesterol that can clog arteries, they put you at high risk of heart disease.
Saturated fats originate mainly from animals. The list includes poultry skin, meat, high-fat dairy products, eggs, and in some vegetable oils such as palm oils and coconut oils. The experts recommend that you keep that intake of these fats at below 10% of your total calories intake.
In fact, it is recommended that the calories you gain from saturated fats never goes above 7%. If you currently use hydrogenated fats or animal fats in large amounts, replace them with liquid vegetable oils.
Evidence shows an undeniable link between rising levels of prostate and colon cancer and the use of saturated fats. It is thus the opinion of experts that you should never use these fats in large amounts. Besides that, you must strive to maintain a healthy weight at all times.
Another type of fat that is common these days are trans fats. There exist two categories of these fats: Those that occur naturally and exist in small quantities in meat and dairy products, and those that occur artificially when liquid oils are partially hydrogenated and hardened.
Natural trans fats should not be an issue of concern, especially if you consume dairy and meat products that are low in fat. However, you should keep an eye out for trans fats. These fats are extensively used for baking, frying, crackers, cookies, icings, snacks, margarine, and even popcorns.
It is the opinion of some experts that these fats are even more harmful than saturated fats. In fact, it would be healthier to consume lard daily than trans fats. Even tiny quantities of these fats can raise the risk of heart disease by increasing bad cholesterol on the body and reducing good cholesterol levels in the body.
It is recommended that you limited your intake of these fats to just 2 grams daily. Obviously, that will be hard to achieve. However, if you choose your food carefully and ensure that you get some exercise, it is not impossible to achieve.
Getting Rid of Fats is Not a Magic Bullet for Good Health
Trans fats have been getting a lot of negative press in recent years. However, if you want to lower the risk of heart disease and other weight-related complications, you will need to take a step back and see the big picture.
To be healthy, you need to reduce your total fat intake and live a healthy lifestyle. That entails doing a bit more exercise and reducing your consumption of processed foods.
Which Food has What Fat?
In most cases, you will not find a food that has only one type of fat. However, a food is classified according to the fat that it has in huge quantities. If you check around, you will no doubt find a list containing most of the sources of good fats that are within your reach.
Learn to Read Labels
If you really want to know what you are consuming, teach yourself to read labels. Most products will have a nutritional panel that contains precise information on what you can expect. Always pick products that have low total fat content and especially low saturated fats content.
If you do not understand any of the terms used on the label, simply carry your phone with you and do a quick search. Some manufacturers may cunningly try to use complex chemical names to hide the fact of how much trans fats their products contain.
You also have to note that even if a product claims to be trans-fat free, it could still contain as much as 0.05% of these fats. It is thus important that you always consume these products with that in mind.
Some Extra Tips on Cutting down Fat Levels in Your Diet
If you are seeking to cut down total fat consumption and get your weight back in control, there are a few things you can do. They include:
Pick a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grain. It will leave you feeling full, give you essential micronutrients, and help to cut down fat consumption.
You should try eating a vegetarian dish, which contains beans at least once each week. You still get your proteins while consuming almost no fats at all.
Ensure to pick dairy products, which have a low-fat content. Additionally, try light salad dressings often to see how you like them. Another trick is to replace your fatty sources with lemon juice, mustards, and vinegar. Besides that, if you cook with fats, use small amounts. You should also ensure that you use unsaturated oil like olive oil or canola oil.
Today, America is facing a major health crisis because of an expanding waistline. No matter how you slice it, the only way to reduce lifestyle-related diseases is by choosing the right fats. Besides that, there is a need to reduce the amount of fats consumed. If you read the information provided above distinguishing between the good and bad fats should be much easier.