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Trim the Fat!

Photo by cwbeucheler via Flickr

Photo by cwbeucheler via Flickr

After listening to “Being Healthy for Busy People” podcasts for a few months, Stan realized that his daily fat intake was way too high.  He was a meat and potatoes kind of guy who enjoyed his steak, eggs, whole milk and greasy snack foods.  Even though he thought it might be a tough transition to make, he decided it was time to change his diet. But where to start?

Stan isn’t alone in having a fatty diet.  Most Americans consume far more total fat, especially saturated fat, than what is recommended by the American Heart Association and the American Cancer Society.  That’s a concern because consuming too much saturated fat increases your risk of heart disease, obesity and cancer.

The American Heart Association recommends limiting total fat intake to less than 25-35% of your total calories.  As for saturated and trans fats, they should comprise less than 7% and 1% of your calories, respectively.  The remaining fat should come from plant or fish sources, rather than other animal sources.  Of course, deriving all of your fat from non-partially hydrogenated vegetable sources is the best possible scenario.

Now, we must remember that fat is not the villain that many people make it out to be.  It is true that too much fat can clog the arteries and cause other health issues, but we must remember that consuming the right amount of fat is essential to a healthy, well functioning body.

How can I cut down on fat?
Now assuming that you are eating too much fat or too much of the wrong kind of fat, you should cut back a bit.  Here are 7 tips to reduce your total fat intake, especially saturated fat.

  1. Reduce your intake of red meat: Substitute fish or skinless chicken or turkey breast.  These are good alternatives to high fat meat.  And when you eat red meat, select lean cuts, trim off all the visible fat and eat smaller portions (3 to 5oz).
  2. Avoid whole dairy products: Use nonfat or low-fat milk and milk products (choose partially-skimmed cheese or cottage cheese).
  3. Eat more vegetables, fruits and whole grains: Make vegetables or grains the core of your meals instead of meat.  Better yet, have a meatless meal a few times a week. But don’t add high fat garnishes to compensate, such as butter, creamy dressings or creamy sauces.  That defeats the purpose of having a meatless meal.
  4. Avoid foods high in saturated fats and oils: Limit or avoid butter, cream and foods containing palm or coconut oil.
  5. Avoid frying foods in fat: Broil, bake or boil foods instead.  If you have to fry, use olive oil instead of butter.
  6. Cut back on fat-laden snacks: Chips, donuts, ice-cream, pastries, cookies and cakes are all examples of high calorie, high fat foods with little nutritional value.  If possible, avoid them.  If you do eat them, search out the lower fat options or reduce your portion size.
  7. Avoid foods with trans-fats: Read nutritional labels and ingredients lists carefully. If the ingredients list partially hydrogenated fats, it has trans fats.  Choose an alternative without any.

To find out more about why saturated and trans fats are bad for you and why unsaturated fats are better you can read: “Know Your Fats”.

The bottom line:

A moderate amount of fat is essential for a healthy body.  So, don’t eliminate your fat intake altogether.  Instead, eat the right kinds of fat and eat them in moderation.  So, focus on vegetables, fruits and whole grain products and if you like, you can round out your diet with low fat dairy products, lean meats, poultry and fish.  That will reduce the saturated and trans fats you eat and you will be healthier for it!

Comments (5)

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  1. […] Original post:  Trim the Fat! […]

  2. Brandon says:

    Hi Talli,

    I’ve been doing a lot of research on coconunt oil, and, even though it is high in saturated fat, most of the studies have shown that it is the healthiest oil.

    Studies have shown coconut oil to help activate the thyroid, thus leading to a healthier metabolism, and it contains medium chain fatty acids which are much easier to digest within the body than other types of oils. Also, because it contains a high ratio of medium chain fatty acids, it is sent directly to the liver where it is converted to energy, rather than being stored as fat.

    Also, coconut oil seems to be the only oil that does not suffer from oxidative damage when heated. All other oils contain polyunsaturated fats which makes compounds break apart when cooked. Olive oil and canola oil are great in their raw form, however when heated most of their beneficial compounds get screwed up (I’m pretty sure that’s the scientific way of explaining it).

    However this is my research on this oil, but you may have uncovered things that I have not yet touched upon.

    Thank you so much for you podcasts Talli! You’re awesome.

  3. Maria Isabel says:

    My problem with with fatty foods is that I Love cheese, specifically Portuguese cheese which has fat in it. I try not to eat it too often. Thanks

  4. Talli van Sunder says:

    @Brandon I am glad you like my podcasts. Thanks for listening!

    I’ve looked into coconut oil a bit in the past, but haven’t found enough properly controlled, peer reviewed studies to draw my own conclusions. So, the claims you make might well be true, but I haven’t seen the evidence yet. I’ll continue looking into it in the future though because it sounds very interesting.

    According to the American Medical Association though, coconut oil’s main component is saturated fat and therefore should be limited in our diet. Evidence supporting the benefits of coconut oil that you mentioned above, are still regarded in the scientific community as either inadequately controlled or not extensive enough to be conclusive. More studies need to be done. So far the therapeutic claims of coconut oil have not been completely validated.

    However, if used in moderation virgin, unprocessed coconut oil should be okay to consume. But the verdict is still out whether coconut oil does everything that some people claim.

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