From the 1980s to around 2000, dietary guidance from the medical establishment and the US government told us that all fat is bad. The marketplace suddenly offered many, varied “low fat” foods, including cookies, pastry, ice cream, deli meats, and many dairy foods.
Since then, research has shown that low-fat diets are ineffective at controlling body weight, lowering cholesterol or risk of heart disease. Also, when manufacturers removed fat from foods, they added refined carbohydrates, which created new problems.
As it turns out, it is the type of fat we eat, rather than the total fat. Rather than adopting a low-fat diet, it’s more important to focus on eating beneficial “good” fats and avoiding harmful “bad” fats.
Fat is an important part of a healthy diet. While I hate to use the terms “good” and “bad” when it comes to food, I will do so here. Choose foods with “good” unsaturated fats, limit foods high in saturated fat, and avoid “bad” trans fat.
“Good” unsaturated fats — Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats — lower disease risk. Foods high in good fats include vegetable oils (such as olive, canola, sunflower, soy, and corn), nuts, seeds, and fish.
“Bad” fats — trans fats — increase disease risk, even when eaten in small quantities. Foods containing trans fats are primarily in processed foods made with trans fat from partially hydrogenated oil. Fortunately, trans fats have been eliminated from many of these foods.
Saturated fats, while not as harmful as trans fats, by comparison with unsaturated fats negatively impact health and are best consumed in moderation. Foods containing large amounts of saturated fat include fatty meat, whole fat dairy foods such as butter, cheese, and ice cream, as well as sauces and gravies.
Note that I said, “cut back,” which does not mean you can’t ever have foods such as whole milk, cream and butter. I have found there are certain times when real butter is exactly right with some of my favorite foods. I use olive oil most often for cooking. But that wonderful crusty baguette really calls for real butter! And a serving of whole fat ice cream is a treat, as is a wonderful creamy cheese.
Also note that when you cut back on foods like red meat and butter, replace them with fish, beans, nuts, and healthy oils instead of sugary or highly processed foods.
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Ellen Glovsky is a Key Biscayne resident, published author and Registered Dietitian and Nutrition Coach. Her work focuses on helping people explore and enhance their relationship with food, using a “Health At Every Size” approach. She is also involved in the island community with her work on KBCF’s Women’s Giving Circle.
To learn more, visit Ellen online by clicking here.