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Know your fats

Did you take the Life’s Simple Seven Quiz? Recall that in a recent post, I told you the American Heart Association (AHA) has narrowed heart healthy living to a list of Life’s Simple Seven.  (Go to  Click on “Getting Healthy”.  Cursor down the page to: My Life Check-Life’s Simple Seven. Click on it and take the quiz.) When people focus on #2 - controlling blood cholesterol - they tend to eat better and lose weight. Just think, from working to lower cholesterol, you may accomplish three of the Life’s Simple Seven.

The Facts on Fats

It is an old saying that a picture is worth a thousand words.  Thanks to the American Heart Association staff, we have two great YouTube videos: Bad Fats Brothers and Better Fats Sisters. Watch these videos and, in just a few minutes, you will begin to know your fats.

Food sources of saturated fat are: animal products like meat, chicken, turkey, fish, pork, wild game, eggs, whole milk, whole milk dairy products like cheese, yogurt, cottage cheese, skin on poultry.  Other sources are: coconut oil, palm and palm kernel oil, and cocoa butter.  These tend to increase cholesterol. These fats should be limited in our food choices.

Trans fats are prepared in a lab.  Liquid oils are hydrogenated to form stick margarine or shortening (solid Crisco).  Any food products made from or fried in stick margarine or shortening are the main food sources of trans fats. Cookies, cakes, pies, some crackers, doughnuts, pastries, chips, popcorn, and some granola bars are examples of foods that may contain hydrogenated oils.

It is always important to stay one step ahead of the food industry.  With the addition of trans fats on the nutrition facts label, the industry has chosen to replace trans fats with palm oil, a source of saturated fat.  Read the ingredient list for palm oil.  The nutrition facts label helps to identify the amount of saturated fat and trans fats in a food.  For trans fats, it is a good idea to include one more step.  Check the ingredient list for the words partially hydrogenated.  This will help to identify the presence of some trans fats even though the food label may list a zero for trans fats.  A zero is allowed unless a product has 0.5 grams or more per serving.

The Better Fats are monounsaturated fats: olive oil, canola oil, peanut oil, peanut butter, nuts, avocado, low sodium olives.  Omega-3 fats include seafood as the best source, ground or milled flaxseed, and walnuts.  Some polyunsaturated fats include: corn oil, soybean oil, safflower oil, sunflower oil, sesame oil.

The next piece of the fat puzzle is: how much fat should you have in a day.  Once again the AHA has a My Fats Translator.   With that information, you are ready to begin the lower fat journey.

Some tips:

♥ Eat two to three servings of seafood (8 to 12 ounces) per week.  Broiled, grilled, poached, or roasted are the best preparation methods.
♥ For a snack, include two to three tablespoons of nuts, such as walnuts, pecans, almonds, and unsalted peanuts.
♥ Choose the better fats for sautéing or for stir frying vegetables, seafood, or meats.
♥ Choose lower fat dairy products.  Fat free or 1% milk, reduced fat cheese, fat free or reduced fat sour cream or yogurt are some examples of non-fat or low-fat products
♥ Choose low fat or non fat mayonnaise or salad dressing.  Olive oil and various flavors of vinegars combine to make all purpose salad dressings.
♥ Avoid palm oil in margarine spreads (tub margarine).
♥ Select lean cuts of meats, such as loin and round cuts.  Trim all visible fat.  Chill soups or stews and skim off the fat that collects on the surface.
♥ If blood triglyceride level is high, limit alcohol and concentrated sweets (soda, candy, cakes, pies, doughnuts etc.).  This includes limiting fruit juice to 6 to 8 ounces per day.  Carbohydrate counting helps too.

Next week, we can discuss fiber.  Along with fat, having fun with fiber can help to lower blood cholesterol.

CHI Health Food and Nutrition Services Team
CHI Health Food and Nutrition Services Team

These blogs are written by members of the CHI Health Nutrition Services team.

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