Know your nutrients: Fats

I am continuing my celebration of  National Nutrition Month by writing about the major nutrients (called “macronutrients”) in my Health & Fitness column in the Aiken Standard. This week I provided information about fats.

Although there are different sources and types of dietary fats, they are are usually grouped together. This leads to the misperception that “fat is bad” or “fat is good. It turns out that some fat intake is essential for good health and getting more of your dietary fats from some sources is better for your health than other sources. For example, saturated fat and trans fats are This is where things get confusing.

I try to alleviate some of this confusion in my column, but I wanted to provide some links to additional (and quality) information. You can learn more about dietary fats, including additional details about functions, health effects, and recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention here and from the Mayo Clinic here.

Ultimately, making smart food choices is needed to shift the balance from unhealthy (saturated and trans) fats to healthier (monounsaturated and omega-3) fats. But determining the types of fats in the food we eat is difficult, to say the least. This excellent graphic shows the food sources of the various types of fatty acids and I find it helpful for making recommendations.

Image

Source: http://canola.okstate.edu/nutrition

Even though the health effects of dietary fats is a confusing issue, the bottom line is that most people could benefit from the following two steps:

  1. Reducing their intake of total fat
  2. Shifting the balance  away from saturated (primarily animal sources) and trans (processed foods) fats toward monounsaturated and omega-3 fats from vegetable oils and fish.

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