Fat 101

Fat is an essential component of our food choices, necessary for good health. We’ve see-sawed between fat-free eating plans to high-fat plans that involve adding butter to coffee. Just like in so many things, the middle ground may be the right place. Let’s take a closer look at fat!

What is Fat?

Fats in foods supply calories and essential fatty acids. They also aid the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K.

Fat, carbohydrate, and protein are the three macronutrients in our foods that provide calories used for energy. Fats provide more calories per gram than any other calorie source — 9 calories per gram vs 4 calories per gram in protein and carbohydrate.

There are four different types of fat: saturated, trans, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated. Each type has different physical properties based on its chemical make-up. All types of fat still contain the same number of calories per gram.

What Foods Contain Fat?

Some fat is found naturally in foods like nuts, seeds, avocado, olives, milk, cheese, yogurt, fish, chicken, and meat. We also add fat to foods —butter, margarine, mayo, sour cream, dressing, etc. Vegetable oils and oils from nuts/seeds are used in cooking too.

Where Does Fat Fit Into a Healthy Eating Pattern?

Since not all fats have the same health effects, and most people eat too much fat in general, incorporating fat into an eating plan requires a bit of know how. Here are some top tips…

  • Plan meals to include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, and proteins that are lower in saturated fat and contain more monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.
  • Choose foods made with unhydrogenated oil, not hydrogenated or partially-hydrogenated oils.

By Lynn Grieger, RDN, CDE, CPT, CWC

“Copyright foodandhealth.com, reprinted with permission”

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