May 28, 2024

Breaking a “No Fat” Mindset By Laura Maydak

Weight struggles may create somewhat of a “dietary fat phobia”, but it’s important not to let a low-fat mindset become a no-fat mindset.  The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend healthy adults consume 20 – 35% of their daily calories from fat.  These recommendations aren’t made without reason, so let’s focus on why we need fat in our diet – and how to choose the best sources.


Key Functions of Fat:
•      Digestion, absorption, and utilization of fat-soluble vitamins and phytonutrients (who knew that consuming fat with fruits and vegetables was so important?)
•      Delayed gastric emptying, making us feel fuller longer (meaning fat can be good for weight loss)
•      Providing a concentrated source of energy
•      Proper cell functioning
•      Hormone production
•      Regulation of body temperature
•      Cushioning of organs and bones
•      Providing flavor and texture to food

Types of Fat
The “Good” – Unsaturated fats
- Monounsaturated fat
•      Benefits: may lower total cholesterol, LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, and triglycerides when substituted for saturated fats
•      Sources: olive oil and other vegetable oils, nuts and nut butters (especially peanut), avocado

- Polyunsaturated fat
•      Omega-6 benefits: may lower LDL cholesterol when substituted for saturated fats
•      Omega-6 sources: corn oil, sunflower oil, soybean oil, nuts, seeds
•      Omega-3 benefits: may lower triglycerides when substituted for saturated fats
•      Omega-3 sources: Fatty fish (such as salmon), flaxseed, canola oil, walnuts

The “Bad” – Saturated and trans fats

Note the word “substituted” – adding unsaturated fats to an already high-fat diet is not beneficial.  If you’re unsure of a food’s fat content, read the nutrition facts panel to see the amount of saturated, unsaturated, and total fat per serving.

Smart Swaps
•      Guacamole instead of cheese-based dip
•      Nut butter in place of cream cheese on toast
•      Replace high-saturated fat condiments on sandwiches with avocado
•      Use vegetable oil instead of butter to sauté
•      Substitute avocado for butter or shortening while baking (1:1); vegetable oil may also be used (ratio is a little less than 1:1)
•      Choose fatty fish instead of red meat

Laura Maydak has a B.S. in Clinical Dietetics and Nutrition from the University of Pittsburgh, and is currently a graduate student in the school’s Coordinated Masters in Nutrition and Dietetics program on her way to become a registered dietitian.  Aside from school, she is an avid runner, fitness enthusiast, and wanna-be chef.  Connect with Laura on twitter (@lmaydak) for motivation and tips for living your healthiest, happiest life – all given with a healthy dose of humor.

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