One of my New Year’s resolutions this year was to come up with monthly “resolutions” for myself and for anyone who follows this blog. Cooking Light magazine (which is one of my favorite sources of recipes and ideas for healthy living) had the same idea, so I am shamelessly borrowing their healthy habits!
It’s a lot easier to commit to 30 days of a new habit than a full year. So this month’s goal is to eat more healthy fats.
The “myth” of fats has become so pervasive in our society that even physicians (and physicians in training) succumb to the idea that fats are somehow “bad”. The type of fats we consume as a society have changed in the last few decades, a change that may have played a part in our current obesity epidemic (and associated diseases). If you are interested in reading more about this, I would suggest starting with Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food, David Kessler’s The End of Overeating:Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite, and Laura Sim’s The Politics of Fat: Food and Nutrition in America.
What kind of fats are in the food we eat?
There are three important dietary fats : saturated fats, unsaturated fats, and transfats.
- Saturated fats are generally solid at room temperature. All animal fats are primarily saturated (meat, lard, butter, cream, fish oil). The majority of plant based oils are primarily unsaturated, but there are a few exceptions. Examples of vegetable oils that have a high percentage of saturated fat include palm oil and coconut oil.
- Unsaturated fats are generally liquid at room temperature and are usually of plant origin (with one noteable exception e.g. fish). Unsaturated fats can be monounsaturated or polyunsaturated.
- Omega-3 fatty acids are unsaturated fatty acids that, along with Omega-6 fatty acids are essential (i.e. you can’t make them from other sources). Most Western diets are heavy in omega-6 fatty acids (found in some oils, and animal sources) and low in omega-3 unsaturated fatty acids (found primarily in nuts, some plants and fish). An increased ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3 fatty acids is thought to contribute to the inflammatory response which mediates a variety of disease states.
- Transfats are liquid oils made solid by hydrogenation. The discovery of this process led to a Nobel prize for Paul Sabatier in 1902. The first major transfat was Crisco (introduced in 1911). The controversy around transfat is a really interesting (and complex) history, but the bottom line is that transfats have been linked with many disease processes. There is general agreement that transfats should be limited in our diets, some experts think they should be eliminated altogether.
What fats should I eat?
Here is a great summary from mayoclinic.com– the “bottom line” of how to adjust your fat intake for an optimal healthy diet
- Limit total fat to 20 to 35 percent of your daily calories. Fat has 9 calories a gram. Based on a 2,000-calorie-a-day diet, this amounts to about 400 to 700 calories a day, or about 44 to 78 grams of total fat.
- Emphasize unsaturated fats from healthier sources, such as lean poultry, fish and healthy oils, such as olive, canola and nut oils.
- Limit less healthy full-fat dairy products, desserts, pizza, burgers and sausage, and other fatty meats.
Fat content in “I forgot to bring my own food” on-call food…. Which is why it’s so important to plan your food on call.
- McDonald’s Quarter Pounder with cheese: 26 grams of fat (12 saturated, 2 transfat)
- McDonald’s Big Mac: 29 grams of fat (10 saturated, 2 transfat)
- McDonald’s large fries: 30 grams of fat (6 saturated, 8 transfat)
- Domino’s Pizza (2 slices Pepperoni): 26 grams of fat (11 sat, 0 transfat)
- Chipotle Chicken burrito (all the way): 53 grams of fat (20 sat, 0 transfat)
More information on dietary fat: