Something to Think About

"I found it is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay. Small acts of kindness and love."
- J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

A Dieter's Guide to Fat

Many of us, myself included, are trying to lose a bit of weight this time of year.  I wouldn't call mine a resolution to lose weight, by the way.  The timing is just a coincidence.  I weigh more now than I ever did and I decided enough was enough and it is time to get rid of the excess!

So!  I'm trying to eat healthier and exercise more to help lose the weight. Exercise can make you feel better about yourself so it is a win-win - but I digress.  Back to the topic.

You see many items in the grocery store labeled "low fat" or "fat free".  It is easy to mistakenly think that these are always good diet foods but we have to remember that we do not get fat from eating fat.  That is a myth.  There are other reasons one might want to reduce fats in one's diet but not to lose weight.

Now, not all fats are created equal. Let's take a look at some of them.

Trans fats are man-made fats. They show up as "partially hydrogenated oils" on food ingredient lists and are found in a lot of processed foods. The American Heart Association tells us that these kinds of fats can increase our LDL (or bad) cholesterol levels and decrease our HDL (or good) cholesterol levels.  I avoid these at all costs.  I'm not convinced that our bodies know exactly what to do with these man-made fats - unlike naturally occurring fats - and they may increase the possibility of heart disease so it seems prudent.

Saturated fats are found in meats and dairy products like that stick of butter up there. These used to be considered the "bad guys" but it appears that we don't have to - and probably shouldn't - avoid them entirely. Still, it is prudent, for the sake of a healthy heart, to limit your intake of these fats. The AHA recommends limiting these fats to 7% of your total calorie intake.

Monounsaturated and Polyunsaturated fats can actually improve your cholesterol levels and decrease your chances of heart disease.  These kinds of fats are found in vegetable oils like olive oil, peanut oil and corn oil and in nuts, avocados, fish and peanut butter.  These kinds of fats do not need to be avoided.

Omega 3 fatty acids are found in certain fish and in walnuts and flax seed. This is considered a healthy fat so it does not have to be avoided.

It appears that we do need some fat in our diet to be healthy and that it can actually help us to lose weight!  Nutritionist Alan Aragon is quoted on  He says we should eat .4 to .6 grams of fat per pound of our goal body weight.  So, if a person wants to weigh 125 lbs. when they are finished losing weight, then that would be 50 to 75 grams of fat a day.  An average tablespoon of oil contains about 15 grams of fat.  A tablespoon of that butter up there contains 11.52 grams of fat. (but keep in mind that 7.29 grams of that is saturated fat)

In short, it appears that to get down to our ideal weight, fat should be a part of our diet.  We should be smart about not overdoing it and watch which types we are ingesting but we don't have to - and shouldn't - remove all fats from our diets!

I should also add a disclaimer here:  I am not a nutritionist nor am I a doctor or other medical professional.  These tips are from information that I gleaned from several online sources including the American Heart Association website and Although I chose sources I trust, we must read things we find on the internet with a healthy dose of skepticism. You should always check with your doctor before you drastically alter your diet. 

The image was found here and altered to remove the butter knife    

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