Fat: Vital Part of a Balanced Diet
Fats are a vital part of a balanced diet. They are an important source of energy and are an essential element in proper growth and development. Fat is the most concentrated source of our energy.
When our body satisfies its energy needs, the unused energy sources are stored as fatty tissue. These stored deposits of fat aid in insulating the body, cushioning vital organs and sending essential nutrients throughout the body. It is important we get some fat in our diet but it is equally important we learn how to regulate the type and the amount we do consume.
Functions of Fat
Some of the most noteworthy functions of fat include maintaining healthy skin, regulating cholesterol metabolism and carrying the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K , aiding in their absorption from the intestines. Fats also help the body use carbohydrates and proteins in a more efficient manner. Another bonus we have in fats is that they help us feel more satisfied following meals.
In spite of all the important functions of fat, it is still true most Americans consume too much. In doing so, the risks to cardio support, obesity, diabetes and other health problems increases dramatically. Health authorities recommend we limit our intake of fat to 30 percent of our total daily caloric intake. Only ten percent of this amount should be saturated fat. This can get confusing for many so here is a basic guide you can follow:
- 1,600 calories: 53 grams or less of total fat and 18 or less saturated
- 2,000 calories: 65 grams or less of total fat and 20 or less saturated
- 2,200 calories: 73 grams or less of total fat and 24 or less saturated
It is a good idea to learn how to read the nutrition labels on the foods you buy and pay attention to the amount of fats -- both total and saturated. You should focus primarily on your total fat intake over time. A food considered high in fat can be a part of a healthy diet as long as you balance it with other lower fat foods. All forms of fats contain nine calories per gram of fat.
The issue of cholesterol comes into play due to its similarity in appearance to fat and effects to the body. Cholesterol comes from two sources; our liver and foods we eat of animal origin. Cholesterol is a waxy substance that contributes to the formation of deposits in the arteries. When too much accumulates in an artery to the heart, a heart attack can occur.
There are two primary types of cholesterol. LDL's, or low density lipoprotein, which is the "bad" cholesterol, and HDL's, or high-density lipoprotein, the "good" cholesterol. LDL's are the bad cholesterol because they are associated with an increased risk of coronary heart disease. The best way of reducing bad cholesterol is by reducing saturated fat in your diet. HDL's are good cholesterol because they protect the heart from developing coronary disease. You can find foods with fat content that have zero cholesterol simply by avoiding ingredients derived from animals. Following are some ways you can reduce the amount of fat and cholesterol in your diet:
- Read labels and watch for foods low in saturated fats
- Substitute fish and poultry for red meat
- Use olive oil in cooking and in baking
- Minimize the usage of butter and margarine
- Eat less foods very high in fat content such as bacon, cold cuts, sausage and hard cheeses
High Fat Food Cravings
When you are craving a high-fat food, this means your body could be desperate for calories. Nine times out of ten, when you crave extremely calorie-rich foods, it's because you haven't been getting enough fuel for a while (days, weeks or months). The key to battling this craving isn't necessarily to eat more fatty food, but to eat more, period.
Alternatives to Fat
There truly are some good alternatives to the traditional fat that is called for in most recipes. Once you find a suitable substitute, be sure to mark your recipe card so you will remember what worked well the next time you prepare that particular dish.
- Try replacing part of the oil and fat called for in recipes with applesauce.
- Plain low-fat yogurt.and reduced-fat sour cream are great stand-ins for sour cream.
- Consider substituting buttermilk or 2-percent milk for whole milk or cream.
- When sauteing meat and vegetables, use chicken or vegetable broth, apple juice, flavored vinegar's, water or wine in place of cooking oil.
- In some recipes, you can just add less fat than the recipe calls for. Start by cutting the butter, margarine, or oil in half then reduce it a little more the next time you make the recipe.
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