How Do You Pick Your Fat?

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FAT!  We have it, we eat it and we need it.  Fat’s major function is to provide energy for the body.  Pound for pound it contains more energy than protein and carbohydrates.

Ever  been on a diet?  Whatever diet you are on, you are told to check the fat content.  Lower your fat intake.  How many grams of fat is included in what you are eating.  I like food with higher fat content.  It tastes better.  Some of my favorites French fries, hamburgers, chicken breast, bread & butter and lactose free milk.  How about those cookies and cakes shared during the holidays?  And the morning doughnuts someone is so nice to bring in for us?  All of these contain saturated fats and are considered the more harmful fats for your body.

I have tried many diets and have found few that I could stay on.  Few that I enjoyed.  However, with each diet, you learn a new trick or new information to help you in future eating endeavors.  The last eating plan I went on, and I am partially still on (the Holidays are killing me) is called the Flat Belly Diet by Prevention Magazine.  Not the Fat Belly diet (which I originally thought it was called) but the Flat Belly Diet.

The Flat Belly Diet suggests you eat Fat with each meal.  The fat they suggest is called a MUFA. What is a MUFA?  It is a Monounsaturated Fatty Acid and I am going to tell you a little bit about this “Good Fat”.

To quote the website: “To the ancient Greeks, olive oil was liquid gold. For the Aztecs, chocolate was sacred. Almonds were prized by Egypt’s pharaohs, and avocados have symbolized fertility for centuries. These can’t-live-without-’em foods share more than history; they also share unique health properties. They’re packed with monounsaturated fatty acids (also known as MUFAs, pronounced MOO-fahs), those good-for-you fats that protect you from chronic disease and, according to new research, can help you lose fat, specifically around your middle. That’s why they’re at the heart of the Flat Belly Diet, a unique Prevention-tested weight loss plan…Eating one serving of any of these at every meal will help reduce your accumulation of dangerous belly fat; control your calorie intake and you’ll lose inches and pounds, too — especially around your waistline.”

There are five major categories of MUFAs: (1) oils (serving size 1 tablespoon), (2) nuts and seeds (serving size 2 tablespoons), (3) avocado (serving size ¼ cup), (4) olives (serving size 10 large olives or 2 tablespoons of tapenade), and (5) chocolate (serving size Dark or semisweet chocolate chips, shavings, or chunks – ¼ cup)

According to the Mayo Clinic, Wikiepedia & The Flat Belly Diet, the best option for fats are monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.  These fats can lower the risk of heart disease and stroke.  These MUFAs (& PUFAs) reduce the total and low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels in your blood.  And just for more knowledge, Cholesterol is produced by the body for building cells is the main substance in fatty deposits that can develop in your arteries.  Increasing your cholesterol levels (LDL) can clog arteries.

The famous “OMEGA 3 FATTY ACIDS” is an example of a polyunsaturated fat.  These Fatty Acids may be beneficial to your heart because Omega 3’s reduce the risk of coronary artery disease and may protect against irregular heartbeats and lower blood pressure levels.

How do you tell the difference between a MUFA and  PUFA?  A MUFA remains liquid at room temperature but may solidify in the refrigerator.  These include olive (about 75% MUFA per wikipedia), peanut and canola (57% to 60% MUFA per wikipedia) oils.  Avocados and nuts are also MUFA high foods.

A PUFA is usually liquid at room temperature and in the refrigerator.  These include vegetable oils such as safflower, corn, sunflower, soy and cottonseed oils.

Omega 3 Fatty Acids are mostly found in seafood.  Examples of these are cold-water fish such as salmon, mackeral and herring.  Flaxseeds, flax oil and walnuts are also Omega 3 foods. mentions some downsides to PUFAs.  Even though these fats protect against cardiovascular disease, they are more vulnerable to rancidity (decomposition of fats, oils and other lipids by hydrolysis or oxidation).  However, some MUFAs and saturated fats promote insulin resistance where PUFAs are protective against insulin resistance.

Some of the more harmful fats are saturated and trans fats and I have mentioned some of the foods that contain these kind of fats earlier.  They can increase the risk of heart disease by increasing your bad cholesterol.  Saturated fats are usually solid or waxy at room temperature and is most often found in animal products such as red meat, poultry, butter and whole milk.  Also included are coconut, palm and tropical oils.  Trans fats (or trans fatty acids) comes from adding hydrogen to vegetable oil through hydrogenation.  It is a common ingredient in baked goods such as crackers, cookies and cakes (makes you think twice about the holiday goodies) and fried foods such as doughnuts and French fries.  Dietary cholesterol is manufactured naturally by your body for the amount your body needs but you can also add cholesterol with animal products.

According to the USDA (Department of Agriculture) and the HHS (Dept of Health and Human Services), the recommendation is to have no more than 35% fat in your daily calories.  For 1,800 calories, consume no more than 70 grams of fat a day.  There is 9 calories per gram of fat.  Therefore, if you take the 1,800 calories and multiply it by 35% to get 630 calories.  Divide this by 9 calories per gram of fat and that is how we get 70 grams of fat a day. They also suggest that saturated fat is recommended at less than 10% of daily calories and Dietary cholesterol is less than 300 mg a day.  The American Heart Association has set an estimated upper limit of trans fat to no more than 1% of daily calories.

Here are some suggestions. 

·        Saute with olive oil instead of butter

·        Avoid using cooking oils that are high in saturated fats and/or trans fats

·        Use olive oil in dressings and marinades and canola oil when baking

·        Instead of bacon bits, sprinkle slivered nuts or sunflower seeds

·        Snack on nuts instead of potato chips or crackers or try nonhydrogenated nut butter spreads on celery, bananas, or rice or popcorn cakes

·        Add slices of avocado instead of cheese to your sandwich

·        Prepare fish instead of meat one or two times a week

·        Minimize using commercially packaged foods which are high in trans fats

Remember to consume all fats in moderation because eating fat in excess whether saturated or unsaturated adds excess calories.  Make sure that fatty foods don’t replace more nutritional items (fruits, vegetables, legumes or whole grains).

When I stayed on the Flat Belly Diet, I was rarely hungry and in 2 months I lost 4 inches around my waist and 10 lbs.  Since I stopped being strict about it, I have gained back around 5 lbs and some inches too but the weight gain seems slower since I still try to add a MUFA to each of my meals.

My New Year’s resolution will be to eat more meals adding a MUFA.  This is the fat I pick.


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