Hamilton Food: Getting the skinny on fats

(NC)-When many of us hear the word "fat" as an ingredient in our food, we automatically think "bad." Surprisingly this is not always the case as not all fats are created equal. There are several different kinds of fat in the foods we eat, and some of them are an important part of our diet that should be eaten daily in small amounts.

The healthy fats include monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats which help lower the bad kind of cholesterol (LDL cholesterol) in our blood. Canada's Food Guide recommends consuming a small amount of unsaturated fat each day.

Monounsaturated fats can be found in olive, canola and peanut oils, avocadoes, non-hydrogenated margarines, nuts and seeds. Polyunsaturated fats include Omega-6 fat and Omega-3 fat. Omega-6 is found in safflower, sesame, sunflower and corn oils as well as non-hydrogenated margarines, nuts and seeds. Sources of Omega-3 include fatty fish like salmon, certain nuts, Omega-3 eggs, flax seed and canola and soybean oils.

Saturated and trans fats are considered unhealthy fats as they tend to increase levels of LDL cholesterol in our blood which can increase our risk for heart disease. Saturated fats can be found in fatty meats, full-fat dairy products, coconut oil, palm oil and palm kernel oils, butter and lard, fast foods, snack foods, many ready-prepared foods and those made with hydrogenated vegetable oil.

Trans fats are particularly harmful to our health because they also decrease the good kind of cholesterol (HDL cholesterol) in our blood. Some trans fats are naturally occurring but for the most part these unhealthy fats come from processed foods such as commercial baked goods and foods made with shortening or partially hydrogenated vegetable oil.

Carol Dombrow, Heart and Stroke Foundation registered dietitian offers the following tips for limiting your fat intake: Various foods naturally have different kinds of fats

  • Follow the recommendations in Canada's Food Guide and include a small amount (2 - 3 tbsp) of unsaturated fat in your diet each day. Use vegetable oils such as canola, olive and soybean as well as soft margarines that are low in saturated and trans fats.

  • Read the Nutrition Facts table on products in grocery stores and ask for nutrition information when dining out to help you choose lower fat options.

  • When grocery shopping choose lower fat milk, cheese and yogurt. Choose fish and meat alternatives more often. Opt for lean cuts of meat and serve poultry without the skin and watch your portion size.

  • Check for Health Check. Look for the Heart and Stroke Foundation's Health Check logo in grocery stores and on restaurant menus. Health Check products meet nutrient criteria developed by the Foundation's registered dietitians including criteria for total fat, saturated fat and trans fat. Learn more at healthcheck.org.


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