The Skinny on Fats: Which Should You Include in Your Diet?

A report from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases reveals that over 35 percent of America’s population is currently obese. Reduced activity, the consumption of fast and convenience foods, and daily stress can all contribute to weight gain. If you are trying to maintain a healthy diet, you may wonder how the fats in foods you eat might cause you pack on pounds. In truth, not all fats are bad for you, and knowing which ones to include in your diet and which ones to avoid can help you make more informed daily food choices.

The Necessity of Fats

You may be trying to avoid all fats if you are trying to lose weight or practice healthy eating habits. However, you may not be aware that your body needs fat in order to function properly. Certain fats assist with vital bodily functions, such as the absorption of nutrients, hormone production, and healthy cell growth. Body fat also helps you withstand cold temperatures. Overall, having too little body fat can be just as unhealthy as having too much, but the first step in finding the right balance is to learn about different kinds of fat and how they affect your body.

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Which Fat Is Which?

The foods you eat every day typically contain four types of fat: trans, saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated. Each fat has a different effect on your body mass index, your cholesterol levels, and how much weight you gain. In general, trans and saturated fats tend to raise your BMI and cholesterol, while monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are less dense and are considered to be the kinds of fats that are good for your body. The latter oils may even help lower bad cholesterol levels when you include them in a balanced diet. However, you must first understand how your body processes them.

How Fat and Calories Differ

The first step in using fats in a healthy and efficient manner is to understand that fat does not equal calories. Calories are the fuel that provide your body with energy, and no matter what kind of fat you consume, each gram contains about nine calories. This may make you wonder why you should bother counting calories when you diet, and in truth, many nutritionists are changing this practice to focus more on what you eat, not how much of it you are consuming.While each gram of fat contains the same amount of calories, what causes obesity and increases the risk of heart disease and stroke is the density of the fat. Trans fats are the worst offenders, with saturated fats close behind. If you are unsure about how many calories or grams of fat you should be consuming daily for your height, gender, and activity level, consult with your doctor or a qualified nutritionist before you change your diet.

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Creating a Fat-Friendly Diet

Once you understand which fats you should include in your diet, you can move forward with changing your eating habits. For breakfast, instead of eating sugary baked goods that are high in trans or saturated fats, cook two eggs in olive oil or add a handful of nuts to oatmeal or a whole-grain cereal. For lunch, add avocado slices to your salad or turkey sandwich. For dinner, substitute fish for red meat. Some fish, such as salmon and tuna, are rich in omega-3 fatty acids that are good for you.

If you want to reduce the number of dairy products you eat as a way to avoid certain fats, consider buying food substitutes. Soy milk, cashew ice cream, and mayonnaise from Hamptoncreek that is made from pea protein, not eggs, are all viable options if you want to keep certain recipes in your nutrition plan but reduce your daily fat intake.

Try our chunky guacamole dip.

Chunky Guacamole Dip
Read Labels Carefully

As you change your diet to include healthier fats, you may want to keep in mind that just because a food does not include trans or saturated fats, it may still be high in calories or contain a lot of sugar or sodium. Eating a lot of sugar can contribute to weight gain, and the consumption of too much sodium may raise your blood pressure to unsafe levels. As you read packaged food labels, consider the overall nutritional value of the item, not just the fat information.

Understanding the value or dangers of the fats in the foods you eat every day can be daunting, but making the effort may yield better results when it comes to eating a healthier diet. If your goal is to lose weight, working closely with your doctor or nutritionist may help you make better choices about fat intake in order to achieve the results you desire.

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The Skinny on Fats: Which Should You Include in Your Diet?

Melanie Kampman

Melanie Kampman is a web designer, developer and owner of Giveaway Bandit and Farm News for Kids. She lives in Northwest Missouri on a large family farm with her husband and eight year old son, the Giveaway Bandit. They raise cattle with a variety of pets including horses, chickens, ducks, and a slew of cats. By Melanie Kampman If you are interested in writing a sponsored post on Giveaway Bandit please email me at melanie (at) giveawaybandit (dot) com.

  • shannon fowler

    great post. so many people think all fats are bad and try to go with all fat free.

  • Erica Weaver

    very good info i stay away from all these but sugar i need to work on

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