Monday, May 16, 2011

Fat: Fact and Fiction

I don’t want to sound like a “food snob,” but lately I’ve been very picky about what I buy at the grocery store. As a personal fitness trainer, I like to be sure to practice what I preach to friends and clients, but lately I must admit I may be getting a little too intense when it comes to fat.





Perhaps like most people, I assumed Fat was just FAT. And if you ate a lot of it, well….you are what you eat, right? So, I would simply advise myself and others to LIMIT ALL FATS in their diets. However, as I have been researching and reading more nutrition books and articles, I am finding that my tune has changed. I wanted to get the Facts on Fat straight – and it inspired me to write this blog to give some helpful information on what is good fat, and what is not so good.


First of all, Fat is not a bad thing, as some of us had once thought. It is a nutrient found naturally in most foods- and that’s the key term. Naturally. When we eat fats that are in more natural substances- like nuts, seeds, seafood, and avocado, then we are eating fats that are good for us. After all, our bodies need fat to carry the fat-soluble vitamins; A, D, E and K.


When we eat the bad kinds of fat, like those added into fast food, microwave popcorn, cookies and pastries, chips and crackers- then we start to introduce fats into our bodies that do more harm than good.


It is important to note that no matter what type of fat you’re eating – the good or the bad- that on average fat is around 9 calories per gram. To follow a healthy lifestyle, it’s important to watch caloric intake, and fat has more than twice the calories of carbs or proteins. Today, Americans get over 34% of their calories from fat – The American Heart Association recommends eating 20% to 35%. Most of the fat Americans consume is packaged inside processed and pre-made foods in grocery stores and restaurants.


To make things simple, I’ve divided Fat into 2 categories: Bad and Good Fats.


Bad Fats are known as Saturated and Trans Fats. The reason I call them Bad Fats is because they have been linked to raising cholesterol levels and clogged arteries, leading to heart disease and stroke.


Saturated Fats are found in meat, butter, cheese, cream and ice cream, and in high concentrations in vegetable fats such as coconut oil, palm oil, kernel oil and cocoa butter. Since our bodies can produce this kind of fat on its own, there’s no physical need to eat foods containing saturated fats.


Trans Fats are a completely unnatural fat- meaning it’s man made. Since Trans Fats have only been introduced into the human diet in the last century, our bodies literally cannot properly absorb and digest Trans Fats properly. This makes it a dangerous addition to our diet- it has been shown in many studies to contribute to clogged arteries and certain cancers, including breast cancer.



Trans Fats are found in fast food, cookies, crackers, granola bars, microwave popcorn, and most packaged baked goods. I couldn’t believe it when I glanced for the first time at the amount of Trans fat in one bag of my favorite microwave popcorn and found that it had 15 grams of Trans Fat! Trans fat is added to most packaged foods because it can extend the shelf life of foods, making them economically sound for producers, and they simply just make food taste better.




Good Fats are labeled as the Unsaturated Fats- identified on nutrition labels as Monounsaturated or Polyunsaturated Fats. These fats should be eaten more readily because our bodies are designed to process them efficiently – as they are found naturally – and they have been shown to reduce clogged arteries.
Monounsaturated Fat is found in the healthiest oils to cook food with – olive, canola and sesame oils. It is also contained in avocado, soybean, nuts such as almonds, cashews, peanuts and pistachios.



Polyunsaturated Fats are primarily found in seeds such as corn, cottonseed, sunflower, flaxseed and margarine. They are also found in seafood, known to have Omega-3 fats - which is linked to lowering levels of the “bad fats” in our arteries, in turn reducing the risk of blood clots and normalizing the heart beat.

As you shop for your groceries this week, I encourage you to check labels on your favorite foods more carefully. If you are having trouble with your weight, or your health, or simply want to stay on a healthy eating routine- make it a pattern to educate yourself on what you are putting into your system. Remember: You are what you eat!


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Hi! I 'm Karlene Murphy. A lover of food (especially if it's gluten and dairy free!), getting outdoors, lifting weights, travel, writing, and snuggling with my two puppies. My addictions include chocolate, coffee, cookies, and sharing my love of being HAPPY and HEALTHY! My passion is educating others - whether at my full time job as a high school Psychology teacher, or with YOU my readers. I have been in the fitness wold for almost 10 years, and currently am an Online Fitness Coach, Fitness Instructor, Pilates and Yoga and Aerial Yoga Instructor in Southern New Hampshire. Contact Me if you need help with designing your own fitness and nutrition program.

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