Vijaya Botla RD, LDRegistered & Licensed Dietitian
We are bombarded by so many different views on what is healthy. Many believe that eating a diet that is “fat free” will help us lose weight and stay in the best of health. Actually, our body needs fat to survive! Fats provide essential fatty acids needed for many of our body’s processes, are needed to absorb fat soluble vitamins such as vitamin A, D, E and K and they help to increase satiety (make us feel full) at meals.
Our diet should have a minimum of 10% and up to 35% of the total calories consumed to come from fat. Now here is the catch; not all fats are created equal and utilized by our bodies in the same way. This is where the “good” fats and “bad” fats come in.
When you are choosing fats to eat, it is important to make sure that you are picking those that are heart healthy. Saturated fats are those fats which are solid at room temperature such as butter, animal fat, dalda, palm and coconut oils. These fats are the ones that most doctors will ask us to limit as they can increase our risk for heart disease and certain cancers, raise our cholesterol and clogging arteries.
Now the good news: there are good fats! Unsaturated fats like those found in vegetable oils such as canola, olive and peanut oils as well as the omega-3 fats found in fish can have the opposite effect on the body that saturated fats do like decreasing our risk for heart disease and some cancers and lowering cholesterol levels.
Many nuts such as almonds, pistachios and peanuts are good sources of unsaturated fats. Unsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature so it is easy to tell which fats you should eat and which to limit. Be careful though, just because a fat is good for you doesn’t mean you can start consuming large amounts of it.
Remember, all fats (both saturated and unsaturated) are very calorie dense having 9 calories per gram whereas carbohydrates and protein have 4 calories per gram so a little fat goes a long way. For a person to lose weight, you have to consume less calories than you burn. On average, people are consuming approximately 35-40% of their calories from fat. By reducing the amount we eat and limiting the saturated fats, we can stay trim and stay healthy.
*The views expressed in this article are those of the dietitian and may not reflect those of AAPI