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The Truth About Fat: Healthy Fats and Amounts

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05.20.15
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Hi Hungry Girl,

I'm always getting mixed messages about fat. Some sources say that fat, well, makes you fat; others seem to encourage eating lots of healthy fats. What's the answer -- is fat good or bad?

Confused about Fat

The Truth About Fat


Hi Confused,

There's definitely a lot of conflicting info out there regarding fat. The simple answer to your question is that fat can and should be part of your diet. But certain types are better than others. And if you go overboard -- even with good fats -- you’ll probably face some negative health consequences. Read on...

Let's start by clearing up a couple of common misconceptions. First of all, simply eating foods with fat in them won’t make you fat. Whether you've got 100 calories of fat, 100 calories of carbs, or 100 calories of protein, you're looking at the same number of calories. However, foods with a lot of fat tend to be high in calories and/or small in portion size (which can lead you to eat too many calories' worth). And consuming too many calories -- no matter where they come from -- can result in weight gain. Secondly, avoiding fat altogether is not the way to go. In fact, it's really important to get a certain amount of healthy fat to maintain overall health. Plus, fats are satiating; avoid 'em, and you might wind up so hungry that you consume way more calories than you need!

So which fats are healthy and which are unhealthy? Unsaturated fats are generally considered to be healthy, while saturated fats tend to fall on the other end of the spectrum. Why? Unsaturated fats, like omega-3 fatty acids, have been shown to improve cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart disease. They're also essential for energy and everyday bodily functions. Common (and delicious) sources of these healthy fats are olive oil, nuts, avocado, salmon, and tuna. When it comes to saturated fat (think butter, lard, cheese, and beef), the effects can be just the opposite -- it can raise your cholesterol, increasing the risk of heart disease and stroke.

Here's the really important part, and it's something a lot of people overlook: There's such a thing as an unhealthy amount of fat... even the good kind. Some people think the more healthy fats the better, but that's just not true. The official USDA guidelines say that adults should get 20 - 35 percent of total calories from fat; the American Heart Association recommends 25 - 35 percent. Base that on an 1,800-calorie diet, and you're looking at 360 - 630 calories from fat each day. To put it in perspective, there are about 400 calories' worth of fat in this combo: 30 almonds, half an avocado, and a 1-oz. piece of dark chocolate. There are about 750 calories' worth in this one: 14 walnuts, 2 tbsp. of olive oil, and 6 oz. of cooked salmon. So as you can see, it's easy to overdo it... even with healthy fats. By the way, the USDA guidelines state that no more than 10 percent of your calories should come from saturated fats; the AHA suggests just 5 - 6 percent. That's why reduced-fat cheese and extra-lean beef are smart choices when it comes to those foods.

I hope this clears up the confusion! By the way, all the recipes in the new HG cookbook were specially developed to contain a balanced ratio of fat, carbs, and protein. Just sayin' :)

 
 

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