By: Joan Enderle, America Heart Association
All fats are not bad. In fact, dietary fats are essential to give your body energy and to support cell growth. They also help protect your organs and help keep your body warm. Fats help your body absorb some nutrients and produce important hormones, too. Your body definitely needs fat – but not as much fat as most people eat.
There are four major dietary gats in the foods we eat: saturated fats, trans fats, monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats. The four types have different chemical structures and physical properties. The bad fats, saturated and trans fats, tend to be more solid at room temperature (like a stick of butter), while the better fats: monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fasts tend to be more liquid (like liquid vegetable oil).
All fats are energy-dense so consuming high levels of fat – regardless of the type – can lead to taking in too many calories. Consuming high levels of saturated or trans fats can also lead to heart disease and stroke. Health experts generally recommend replacing saturated fats and trans fats with monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats – while still limiting the total amount of fat you consume.
Eating foods with a moderate amount of fat is definitely part of a healthy diet. Just remember to balance the amount of calories you eat with the amount of calories you burn. Aim to eat more vegetables, fruits whole-grain/high-fiber foods, fat-free and low-fat dairy products, lean meats, poultry, and fish (at least twice a week). Doing so means that your diet will be low in both saturated fats and trans fats.
Many people wonder how many calories they should consume each day or how many grams of fat is healthy. The American Heart Association recommends that about 25-35 percent of your daily calories come from fats. Less than 7 percent of calories from saturated fat and less than 1 percent from trans-fat is recommended. Most of the fats you eat should be monounsaturated and/or polyunsaturated fats.
Visit the American Heart Association’s “My Fats Translator” at http://www.myfatstranslator.org to get your personalized daily consumption limits for total fat, saturated fat and trans-fat. Just input your age, gender, height, weight and physical activity level.
Here’s a list of cooking oils that contain the best ratio of the “better-for-you” fats.
Canola oil was first introduced in the 1970s for home cooking and is made from seeds of the canola plant. It’s a great oil to have in your pantry because it is very versatile. Works well for sautéing, baking, frying, marinating and salad dressings.
Olive oil is a heart healthy staple of the Mediterranean diet and is made from ripe olives. “Extra virgin” is made from the first pressing of olives. “Light” olive oil is lighter in flavor and color but has the same amount of calories as extra-virgin. With a distinct flavor best uses include: grilling, sautéing, roasting, spreads for bread, base for Italian, Greek and Spanish dishes.
Peanut oil is made from shelled peanuts and is popular in Asian dishes as well as Southern cooking. With a high smoke point, peanut oil is used commonly for stir-frying, roasting, deep-frying or baking.
Sesame oil is made from sesame seeds and is a staple in Chinese, Korean and Indian cooking. With a nutty flavor, the light is used for stir-frying and the dark for dressings/sauces.
Vegetable oil is usually made from a combination of corn, soybeans and/or sunflower seeds and is another great oil to have on hand because it can be used for many different cooking techniques, including sautéing, baking, frying, marinating and salad dressings.
This article is brought to you by the American Heart Association’s Simple Cooking with Heart Program. For more articles and simple, quick and affordable recipes, visit heart.org/simplecooking.
Enderle is the communications and Go Red director in North Dakota for the American Heart Association.