There is a glut of contradictory information available on what kind of foods we should or shouldn't eat. Low-carb diets, low-fat diets and their various combinations all have numerous fans and detractors. The important thing is to pick a plan that works for you and helps you to reach your goals, whatever they may be.
One popular dietary choice is low fat. For a food to meet the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) definition of low fat, it must contain only three grams of fat or less per serving. A food labeled fat free must have 0.5 grams of fat or less per serving.
According to the FDA, fats should make up no more than 30 percent of your calories. So first, let's figure out what the different fats are and what they mean to your health. Saturated fats come primarily from animal sources, and are found in many food staples, such as butter, milk, and meat. Coconut oil and palm kernel oil are also highly saturated fat sources. These are the fats most health sources, including the FDA, will tell you should comprise the least part of your fat intake, between seven and 10 percent.
Understanding the Types of Fats
There are several different types of fats, including saturated fats, polyunsaturated fats, monounsaturated fats and hydrogenated or partly hydrogenated fats. An important part of low-fat cooking is understanding these fats and using or eliminating them according to the affect they have on your body.
Unsaturated fats come in two varieties: polyunsaturated and monounsaturated. Examples of polyunsaturated fats are corn, safflower, and sesame oil; these should make up no more than 10 percent of your daily fat intake. You can also get polyunsaturated fats in the form of omega-3 fatty acids, which are necessary for our health but not produced naturally in the body. Omega-3 fatty acids are found in flax seeds, walnuts, spinach, shrimp, clams and many types of fish including trout, salmon and tuna.
Monounsaturated fats are the fats you can have the most of. They comprise up to 15 percent of your fat intake. Monounsaturated fats enjoy the health field's stamp of approval because they may help lower cholesterol and decrease the risk of heart disease. These are the fats from avocadoes, nuts, and olive, peanut and canola oils.
The fats you really want to stay away from are the partially hydrogenated fats, also called trans fatty acids or trans fats. Trans fats are polyunsaturated fats with added hydrogen. The added hydrogen makes them firmer and gives them a longer shelf life. Trans fats are abundant in prepared foods, such as French fries, potato chips, cookies, donuts, vegetable shortening and many stick margarines. Trans fats are bad for you because they can both raise your bad LDL cholesterol while lowering your good HDL cholesterol, consequently increasing your risk of developing heart disease.
With just a little experimentation, your low-fat meals can be both flavorful and nutritious. Avoiding the bad fats and replacing them with better options can help ensure your life will be a long and healthy one. Your body will thank you for it!