3. Weight Control
Although fats are more calorie-dense than carbohydrates or protein, healthy fats are an excellent investment from a dieting perspective. Fats keep you feeling full and prevent overeating.
To keep hunger at bay, incorporate healthy fats into your diet. Decorate your salads with avocado, nuts, and a drizzle of olive oil to make your meals more filling.
But, be careful—size matters. While some fats are more beneficial than others, all fats contain 9 calories per gram, which is more than carbohydrates or protein. To put this in perspective, 1 oz. of almonds contains 165 calories and 1 tablespoon of olive oil contains 120 calories.
It is easy to rack up a lot of calories in a small portion. So, how much fat should you be consuming? Try to keep total fat intake at about 20 to 35 percent of your daily calories.
More About Bad Fats
Just as there are healthy fats, there are also harmful fats: saturated fats and trans fats. Saturated fat is primarily found in animal fats, such as red meat and full-fat dairy products.
Saturated fat is harmful because it raises total blood cholesterol levels, especially the bad type of cholesterol, LDL, which is associated with increased risk of heart disease. To minimize saturated fats, choose low-fat dairy products and lean varieties of meat such as chicken or fish.
The second type of detrimental fat is trans fat. Trans fats occur naturally in some foods, but are primarily created through the partial hydrogenation of unsaturated fats during food processing. You may have heard of "hydrogenated" or "partially hydrogenated" oils.
The hydrogenation process creates solid fats that are less likely to spoil than naturally occurring oils. This artificial process is done to extend shelf life for packaged foods.
As of 2006, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) mandates that food manufacturers list trans fat amounts on nutrition labels. Try to stay away from the packaged, processed foods containing trans fats, as these can increase the likelihood of heart disease by raising unhealthy LDL cholesterol levels.
The recent low-fat craze led people to believe that "fat-free" means "healthy". Although fats are calorie dense and can rack up a lot of calories if not enjoyed moderately, it is the excess of calories from any source, not just fats, that contributes to weight gain.
Don't be afraid of fats, but be selective. Try to minimize trans fats from packaged foods and saturated fats found in full-fat dairy and animal products. Instead, aim to integrate moderate portions of healthy fats such as olive oil, avocados, fish, and nuts into your diet to maintain cardiovascular health, improve cholesterol levels, and keep hunger at bay.
Stay healthy with our nutrition guide.