We all love dessert, but we also probably eat more than we should. Consuming fats is an important part of our diet, but the wrong amounts of the wrong types can lead to weight gain, obesity, and increased risk of heart disease. Because of these risks, we want to consume the least amount of food in this group. Oils and fats are different, and since sweets have lots of fats, they are included in this group. The oils most people are familiar with include canola oil, olive oil, and corn oil, while the fats are butter, chicken fat, and stick margarine. Sugary sweets include brownies, cookies, cakes, and soft drinks.
Oils contain essential nutrients, are liquid at room temperature, and are needed to help our bodies function. Fats are also an essential part of the human diet, but unlike oils, they are solid at room temperature. Fats come with more trans- or saturated fat than oils do, and it is important to be careful how much you eat. Unsaturated fats (HDL) are healthy, but saturated fats (LDL) can lead to the weight gain, obesity and risk of heart disease mentioned earlier. While oils and fats both contain a mixture of saturated and unsaturated fatty acids, solid fats contain more saturated and trans-fats than oils. Saturated fats are mainly found in animal products and should make up less than 10% of daily caloric intake. Fats as a whole should not account for more than 30% of daily caloric intake. Respecting this guideline is important because one gram of fat contains nine calories, which is more than twice that of protein and carbohydrates (four grams each) and makes it very easy to consume too much fat. Sugars, even though they also have four calories per gram, bring mostly empty calories into our diets.
The food we eat fulfills most of our daily needs for oil through things such as nuts, cooking oil and salad dressing. Even though we get oils from our food, remember that they do contain calories. That makes checking labels and looking for options with no trans-fat and little to no saturated fat a big part of maintaining a healthy diet. By using oils sparingly when cooking, cutting down on sugary after dinner treats and ceasing to drink sodas, you can control your intake of bad fats and sugars, while helping lower your risk for weight gain and heart disease.
To learn more about Fats and Oils, visit http://www.choosemyplate.gov/food-groups/oils.html, and start reading labels. Next week, we’ll cover Vegetarian Diets and look at healthy ways to eat without meat, poultry and fish.