How well do you know your fats? Do you know which fats are unsaturated and which are saturated? Do you know whether butter is better than margarine? If you hesitated on some of these questions you are like many consumers who find all the “fat” talk confusing.
Fats are essential to health, they provide energy, they help your body transport and absorb certain vitamins, they are a important to some hormones and they provide cushioning to your organs. The problem with fats is many people eat too many and many people are confused with “good” and “bad” fats.
When it comes to overall health, and improving heart disease risk, the fats you want to choose are the following.
· Vegetable oils and margarines with liquid oil as the first ingredient and No More than 2 grams of saturated fat per tablespoon.
· Nuts, seeds and nut butters – peanut, walnut, almond, sunflower, etc
· Fatty fish - salmon, tuna, mackerel, herring and trout
Even though fats are needed for health it is important to remember that ALL fats contain 9 calories/gram so portion control is important. Current guidelines recommend that fat intake be between 25% - 35% of your daily calories and saturated fats – those that increase heart disease risk – be kept small. (For specific guidelines go to www.americanheart.org)
Saturated fats are found mainly in animal foods like beef, pork, poultry, lard, butter, cream, other full fat and reduced fat dairy products but are also in palm, palm kernel and coconut oils. Saturated fats increase blood cholesterol levels so they, along with trans fats are often referred to as “bad” fats. Keep saturated fat low and Trans fats even lower to reduce your risk.
By the way, butter and margarine have the same number of calories but butter has more saturated fat, cholesterol and trans fats than most liquid or soft spread margarines so look for them as your "healthier" choice.
For tips on reading menus, cooking with fats and dining out visit the American Heart Association’s Fats 101 at – www.AmericanHeart.org/FacetheFats