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Some fat is needed for a healthy diet

Stop by the Health 1st Wellness Wednesday table between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. Sept. 24 in the Children’s Hospital lobby to receive information on nutrition and fat intake.

by Janet Carter
Registered dietitian
Contrary to popular belief, fat isn’t all bad. It is important for people to consume some fat, but, of course, not too much. Also, there are some fats that are better  than others.

Why do I need fat?
Absorption of fat-soluble vitamins. Vitamins A, E, D, and K can only be absorbed in the presence of fat.  Just like other vitamins and minerals, these perform important functions in the body.
  • Insulation and protection. Body organs are surrounded in a layer of fat to protect them and keep them insulated.
  • Hair and skin.  Fat is a major component of cells, so having enough helps keep the internal and external cells healthy.
  • Hormones, etc. Fat is a component of many things  such as hormones, bile, and lipoproteins.
How much fat do I need?
It’s not hard to get enough, since fat has more than double the calories of carbohydrate and protein: 1 gram of fat = 9 calories; 1 gram of carbohydrate = 4 calories; 1 gram of protein = 4 calories.
The latest research states that 30 percent of the calories should come from fat. When determining what that means, don’t forget that fat has nine  calories per gram.  Here’s an example: 2,000 calories X 0.30 = 600: 600/9 = 67 grams of fat per day.
To be more specific, we shouldn’t get more than 10 percent  of our calories from saturated fat . Therefore, using the example above: 2,000 calories X 0.10 = 200: 200/9 = 22 grams of saturated fat per day.

What are the different fats; where do they come from?
  • Cholesterol—should be limited to no more than 300 mg per day; made in the liver and found only in animal products;
  • Saturated fat—too much can raise cholesterol levels in the blood; should be limited to no more than 10 percent of calories; mainly found in fats that are solid: butter, lard, animal fats, anything deep fried and dairy made from whole milk;
  • Trans fat—can raise LDL cholesterol levels; should be limited to zero grams per day; mostly found in packaged and prepared food;
  • Monounsaturated fat—can lower LDL cholesterol levels; mainly found in plant sources of fat such as avocado, nuts,canola oil, olives and olive oil, peanuts and peanut butter;
  • Polyunsaturated fat—can help lower total cholesterol levels; mainly found in plant sources of fat such as soft (tub) margarine, corn oil and walnuts;
  • Essential fatty acids—the body cannot make these on its own, so fatty acids must come from the foods eaten and can help keep artery clogging in check.Fatty acids can be found in fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, herring)    walnuts, flaxseed, flaxseed oil, canola oil and soybean products.
What can happen if I get too much fat?
Obviously, due to the high level of calories in fat, too much weight can be gained.  This isn’t specific to fat, since we can gain weight from getting too much of anything, including carbohydrate and protein. Too much fat, especially saturated and trans fat can cause plaque in the arteries, which can lead to heart attack and/or stroke.
In summary, it's important to consume fat, but be careful about how much, and the sources of that fat.

Friday, Sept. 19, 2008
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