A month to change your heart: Day 23

Have you ever enjoyed a bowl of Cheerios with milk for breakfast and realized that you were starving two hours later?  Ever wondered why your co-worker can be perfectly happy enjoying a salad at lunch when after your salad you are prowling the halls at work, searching for the vending machine in the early afternoon?  The answer to both of these questions might be FAT.  When you think about eating fat in your diet, do you immediately envision an extra roll of fat above your waistband?  Well, let’s dispel that visual with a few facts.

Fat is fuel for our bodies.  It takes 4-5 hours for our body to digest and absorb fat.  Protein and carbohydrate are digested and absorbed in 2-2 ½ hours.  So, if you return from the gym and eat a delicious bowl of Cheerios with icy cold skim milk at 7:00 am, don’t be surprised if you want to chew on your co-workers arm by 9:30.  The food has already been utilized and your body is ready for more fuel.  If instead of the cereal, you choose scrambled egg whites and a whole wheat English muffin with peanut butter, you have only eaten about 400 calories but you will be full until lunch.  Fat has some big benefits in that it offers longer term satiety or a feeling of fullness.  Now, don’t get carried away and start thinking about bacon and eggs with sausage.  This is a heart heathy series and while fat can be a good choice and it can help to make you feel full, the type of fat matters. 

FATS

Do we need it?  Does fat make us fat?  Your body requires a small quantity of fat from your diet to get all the essential fatty acids.  Fat gives us energy, it keeps us warm, it helps to support cell growth and it allows us to absorb the fat soluble vitamins, A, D, E and K.  But few people in this country eat only a small amount of fat. If you’re the average person, you only need 14 grams or 126 calories of fat per day to get all the essential fatty acids you need. But the average American eats 8 times this amount, or between 40-50% of their total daily calories from fat sources.

All fats are made up of three components in varying proportions; saturated fat, polyunsaturated fat, and monounsaturated fat. Saturated fat raises your bad cholesterol level. Sources of saturated fat include red meat, cheese and full fat dairy. On the Mediterranean Diet, the quantity of saturated fat is strictly limited.

Polyunsaturated fat and monounsaturated fat can actually help our blood cholesterol levels and they can decrease your risk of heart disease.  They are usually liquid at room temperature.  A few examples of polyunsaturated oils are; corn oil, soybean, safflower and sunflower oil.   Examples of monounsaturated are olive and canola oil.

MEET THE FATS

Here are some clues for determining which type of fat a food contains:

SATURATED FAT

Saturated fat is the type of fat that raises your LDL or bad cholesterol.  It is usually solid at room temperature. A good visual example of a saturated fat is bacon grease. It is liquid when hot, but it congeals when the fat cools.  The food sources that contribute the most saturated fat to the American diet are pizza, cheese and red meat.  It would be impossible to eliminate saturated fat from our diet because even heart healthy fats such as olive oil contains  a mixture of saturated, polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats

TRANS FAT

Trans fat are really the bad guys.  Most trans fats are manmade.  They were created in the 1950’s as a method to improve the manufacture of certain commercial food products.  This process adds hydrogen to liquid oils to make them more solid.  The advantage to the manufacturer was that these foods could be cooked at higher temperatures and they had a longer shelf life.  When reading a label, if “partially hydrogenated oil” is listed on the ingredient list, this is a trans fat.  Trans fats can increase your LDL or bad cholesterol.  Fortunately, following a lengthy campaign by public health activists, about 85% of trans fats have already been eliminated from the American food supply.  In June of 2015, U.S. officials announced that they are moving forward with a ban on trans fats.  Over the next three years food manufacturers will be required to remove trans fats from their products. 

Here is where you can still find trans fat: coffee creamers, ready to use frostings, fast foods, margarines, vegetable shortenings and frozen pizza. 

POLYUNSATURATED FAT

Polyunsaturated fats are usually liquid at room temperature but they will turn solid when chilled.  They can help to lower your LDL or bad cholesterol and help to decrease your risk of heart disease and stroke.  Food sources of polyunsaturated fats are liquid oils such as soybean and corn oil as well as fatty fish, nuts, seeds, tofu and soybeans. 

OMEGA-3 FATTY ACIDS

Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of polyunsaturated fat that is especially beneficial to your heart. Omega-3, which can be found in some types of fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, trout, mackerel, sardines and herring appears to decrease the risk of coronary artery disease.

Plant sources of omega-3 fatty acids include flaxseed (ground) and chia seeds, canola oil and walnuts.

MONOSATURATED FATS

The two monounsaturated fats you may know are olive oil and canola oils. They are the lowest of all the oils in saturated fat and highest in omega-3 fatty acids.

HEART HEALTHY SOURCES OF FAT

FOOD

AMOUNT

CALORIES

GRAMS OF FAT

Olive Oil

1 Tablespoon

120

11

Canola Oil

1 Tablespoon

120

11

Nuts

1/4 cup

200

19

Avocado

1 cup sliced

234

21

Peanut butter

1 Tablespoon

100

8

Olives

1 small

4

0.3

Salmon

4 ounces

233

9

Tuna

4 ounces

228

8

Sardines

4 ounces

205

11

Flax seed

1 Tablespoon, ground

37

3

Soybeans (edamame)

1 cup

189

8

Chia Seeds

1 ounce

138

9

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