Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Skinny on the "Fats"

The Skinny on the “Fats”

When it comes to deciding what to eat, if you are like me, you want important information put in simple easy to follow terms. I find that the whole unsaturated/saturated & trans fats  found in food can trip me up sometimes. I know that one’s good, one’s bad, and one should be limited.  Understanding which is which and why and then, what foods have which in it is exhausting, not to mention confusing! Hopefully this article will give you the information you need to get skinny from the right fats.

1. Monounsaturated fatty acid (also known as MUFA, which I will refer to from here on out because it is catchy and cute) is the “good” and healthy fatty acid. Why? MUFAs are the healthy oils found in many plant foods. They are packed with nutrients, and they fill you up fast (and keep you full longer), and they are delicious! It stands to reason that having a MUFA with each meal would be very beneficial and can actually help you loose weight. Lets break it down to 5 easy categories.

1. Oils - Plant based oils are an important part of a healthy diet. Approximately 1 Tablespoon = 100 calories, which is recommended with each meal. Don’t let that scare you, remember these are healthy fats and the calories are easily used up by the body. Here is the list of healthy oils:

Olive oil - Canola oil - Refined peanut oil - Sesame oil - High-oleic safflower and sunflower oils - Walnut oil and Flaxseed oil

2. Nuts & Seeds - These are a great MUFA source and are packed with protein and flavor. They are also a healthy, practical and portable snack! Since most nuts are high in salt, I recommend you buy the unsalted for optimal health. You might be surprised by their great taste without all the salt!  Approximately 2 Tablespoons = 100 calories. Here is your recommended list:

Almonds - Brazil nuts - Cashews - Hazelnuts - Macadamia nuts - Pecans - Pine nuts -
Pistachios - Walnuts, Peanuts and Sunflower seeds (shelled)

3. Avocados - This super-creamy fruit is packed with MUFA but is also high in cancer fighting carotenoids. Adding avocado to any meal is super easy, not to mention tasty! 1/4 Cup of avocado = 100 calories.

4. Olives - These small, tasty gems are not only full of MUFAs but also rich in vitamin E, an antioxidant that protects cell membranes and reduces inflammation. From black, green, brown, Spanish, Greek and California the variety makes it easy to incorporate them into any meal. The calories are a little trickier in olives because it varies with each source. Close as I can tell about 15 to 20 large olives = approximately 100 calories.

5. DARK CHOCOLATE - I had to capitalize it because this is my favorite MUFA! Chocolate good for you? You bet! Dark chocolate is rich in MUFA and if consumed in reasonable quantities (yawn) it is actually healthy for you. 2 Tablespoons = 100 calories.

 2. Saturated fatty acid raises levels of LDL (bad cholesterol) in your blood and, in turn increases your risk of heart attack or stroke. This fatty acid should be “limited” in your diet to no more than 4 grams per meal.     Animal products, like meat and dairy products, are the main sources of saturated fat, however tropical oils such as coconut oil, palm oil and cocoa butter are also high in saturated fat. Limiting these foods in your diet is not very fun, but limiting is better than banning!

 3. Trans fats, like saturated fat, increases LDL levels in your blood. But that’s not all. Trans fat also lowers levels of HDL (good cholesterol), which helps keep blood vessels clear, making trans fat a really bad fat that should be “banned” from your diet! Trans fat is produced when hydrogen is added to liquid oils to make them solid, and it is found mostly in packaged products. Because manufacturers are allowed to claim zero trans fat for any food actually containing up to half a gram per serving, it is important to identify trans fats in the ingredients list. Look for the words hydrogenated, partially hydrogenated, and shortening. If you spot these terms in the list, put that food down and back away, there are plenty of good foods with out it!

Well hopefully this is helpful and healthful for you. I have found that being careful and watchful of my fatty intake has been a great benefit to my overall health and weight control. Adding the good MUFAs into each of my meals has given me more energy, I stay full longer and don’t need to snack between meals.

Tracey Parr