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Dr. Gillaspy has taught health science at University of Phoenix and Ashford University and has a degree from Palmer College of Chiropractic.
Life would be pretty boring without fats. Not only are fats, or lipids, an important source of energy, they also enhance your enjoyment of foods. It's the fats in the foods like ice cream, baked goods and meats that make them creamy, rich and savory. Yet dietary fats contribute more calories per gram than any other nutrient. So too much of a good thing can lead to weight gain and other health risks. In this lesson, we will learn about the different types of fats available through your diet and recommended amounts you should eat to try to stay healthy.
Dietary fats are easy to obtain, and they're found in a variety of both animal and plant-based foods. The most common fats that we eat come in the form of triglycerides. For example, saturated fats are a type of triglyceride found in butter, dairy products, meats and other animal products. Overconsumption of saturated fats has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease. The opposite can be said for unsaturated fats, as they are associated with a lower risk of heart disease. Unsaturated fats are present in foods that originate from plants, so they are found in vegetable oils, olive oil, nuts and seeds.
Trans fats are man-made fats that basically make unsaturated fats less healthy. When added to foods they can help prevent spoilage, but trans fats are not healthy fats and have been linked to an increased risk of heart disease. They are found in margarine, cookies, fried fast foods and many packaged snack foods.
There are other fats that you can get through your diet that do not fit under the category of triglycerides. For example, cholesterol is found in animal products, such as meats, eggs and cheese. Cholesterol, along with saturated fats and trans fats, can increase your risk of heart disease, and we will find out in a moment that these are the fats that you want to limit in your diet.
But, before we get into the recommended intakes, we should also mention one more fat that can benefit your health, namely essential fatty acids. Essential fatty acids cannot be made by your body, so it is essential that you get them from your diet. There are two essential fatty acids. Alpha-linolenic acid, which is a type of omega-3 fatty acid, is found in flaxseed, walnuts and canola oil. The other essential fatty acid is linoleic acid, which is a type of omega-6 fatty acid. It is found in nuts and vegetable oils such as corn oil, safflower oil and soybean oil.
The United States government has established recommended intake levels for dietary fats that focus on getting the essential fatty acids you need and choosing the right fats for good health. What we see from these recommendations is that you don't need a large amount of fats in your diet. The government recommends that you obtain between 20 to 35% of your daily calories from fats. This means that if you consume 2,000 calories a day, then you would want between 400 to 700 calories to come from fats. Considering that about 12 potato chips contain 80 calories from fat, you can see that you need to watch your fat intake, as well as your sources of fat, closely.
Dietary guidelines recommend that you reduce your saturated fat intake by replacing foods high in saturated fats with unsaturated options. The guidelines also recommend that healthy individuals limit cholesterol to less than 300 mg per day. To give you an idea of how much this would be, if you scrambled an egg for breakfast you would consume about 170 mg of cholesterol. If you add a one-ounce slice of cheddar cheese to your egg, you would add about 30 more grams of cholesterol, putting you at 200 mg by the end of breakfast. You can reduce saturated fats and cholesterol by limiting your intake of fatty meats and full-fat dairy products and removing the skin from poultry.
The guidelines also recommend that you limit your intake of trans fats. Reducing your consumption of margarine, fast foods and packaged snack foods can accomplish this goal. To improve your health and reduce your risk of chronic disease, foods high in saturated fats, cholesterol and trans fats can be replaced with healthier, unsaturated fat choices, such as nuts, seeds, avocados and olive oils.
Your daily diet needs to include a small amount of these essential fatty acids. The adequate intake of alpha-linolenic acid is set at 1.6 grams per day for men and 1.1 for women. If you sprinkle a quarter-cup of walnuts on top of a salad or mix one tablespoon of ground flaxseed into your breakfast cereal, you will meet this requirement. The adequate intake of linoleic acid is set at 17 grams per day for men and 12 grams for women. You can meet this by snacking on a half-cup of almonds or cooking one of your daily meals in two tablespoons of corn oil.
Let's review. The government recommends that you obtain between 20 to 35% of your daily calories from fats, but it's also important to pay attention to the types of fats you consume. Saturated fats are found in butter, dairy products, meats and other animal products. Cholesterol is found in animal products, such as meat, eggs and cheese. Overconsumption of saturated fats and cholesterol has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease.
Dietary guidelines recommend that you reduce your saturated fat intake and limit cholesterol to less than 300 mg per day. This can be done by limiting your intake of fatty meat and full-fat dairy products and removing the skin from poultry. The guidelines also recommend that you limit your intake of trans fats by reducing your consumption of margarine, fast foods and packaged snack foods.
Your daily diet can include unsaturated fats found in vegetable oils, olive oil, nuts and seeds because they are associated with a lower risk of heart disease. Your diet also needs to include a small amount of the essential fatty acids. The adequate intake of alpha-linolenic acid is set at 1.6 grams per day for men and 1.1 for women. The adequate intake of linoleic acid is set at 17 grams per day for men and 12 grams for women.
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Back To CourseHealth and Wellness
11 chapters | 103 lessons