Fat Facts: Fat Confusion Cleared Up

Wednesday, October 25, 2006 - 1:30pm

By Staff

For years, health organizations have advised Americans to "cut the fat" when eating for disease prevention. But, new reports suggest that very low fat diets may not be optimal for good health. AICR clears up the confusion and offers an easy list of "Dos and Don'ts" to consider when choosing fats.

DON'T eliminate all fat from your diet

We need some fat in our diets for good health, but current research shows that all fats are not equal when eating to prevent cancer and other diseases. The AICR recommendation on dietary fat is to "limit consumption of fatty foods, particularly those of animal origin, and choose modest amounts of appropriate vegetable oils." Vegetable oils should be mostly monounsaturated with minimum hydrogenation -- such as olive and canola oils.

For more information on fats that shouldn't be cut from your diet see the following article from TheDietChannel: Healthy & Fat? 5 High-Fat Foods You Should Not Avoid.

DO eat less saturated or animal fat

When AICR's expert international panel reviewed all the scientific findings relating to fat and cancer, they found a pattern suggesting that diets high in animal fat and/or saturated fat possibly increase the risk of lung, colorectal, breast, uterine and prostate cancers. We also know that saturated fat contributes to cardiovascular disease risk. Saturated fat comes mostly from foods of animal origin, such as beef, pork, whole milk, cheese, eggs, butter and lard.

DON'T forego avocados or almonds

Monounsaturated fat is found in avocados, almonds, peanuts and other nuts and seeds. Eating these foods in moderation will not add to your cancer risk, nor your risk for heart disease. In fact, research has shown that including monounsaturated fat in the diet actually increases good cholesterol levels, perhaps protecting against heart disease. All fat however, is high in calories, nine per gram compared to four per gram for protein or carbohydrate. So, it is still a good idea to use moderation with these foods -- or you may find your weight creeping upward.

DO choose olive oil or canola oil

Research does suggest that when you add fat to foods in cooking or at the table, it's better to use unsaturated vegetable oils. Olive and canola oils, which are high in monounsaturated fat, are favored over corn, safflower and sunflower oils, which contain more polyunsaturated fat.

For more information on the right fats to use when cooking see the following article from TheDietChannel: A Guide To Healthy Cooking Oils.

DON'T overindulge in any fat

A diet high in total (saturated and unsaturated) fat possibly increases the risk of lung, colorectal, breast and prostate cancers and is linked to a higher risk of heart disease and stroke. Diets high in fat are usually higher in calories, which can lead to obesity. In this way, fat is an indirect risk factor for diseases linked with excessive weight, including cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke and diabetes. So, while you shouldn't eliminate all fat from your diet, be moderate in your consumption. AICR recommends getting between 15% and 30% of calories from fat. For a person eating about 2000 calories per day, that means eating between 33 and 67 grams of fat.

DO try to avoid trans-fat

AICR recommends minimizing the use of vegetable oils that have been through the hydrogenation process to make them stable and solid at room temperature. Hydrogenated fat contains significant amounts of "trans-fat", which has been linked with the development of heart disease and is being investigated for its role in the development of other diseases. Trans-fat is found in processed cookies, chips, cakes and crackers, in commercially deep-fried foods such as french fries and doughnuts and in margarine and shortening. The amount of trans-fat does not appear on Nutrition Facts food labels, so watch out for "partially-hydrogenated oils" in package ingredient lists.

The bottom line: don't cut fat from your diet just eat the right fat in moderation

Cutting all the fat in your diet isn't necessary -- just choose your fats carefully and be moderate. We continue to learn more through research, but strong evidence shows that a shift toward a plant-based diet rich in a variety of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and beans and away from a diet of high-fat animal and processed foods, will help you achieve a longer and healthier life.

Reprinted with permission from The American Institute For Cancer Research.

For further information on diabetes and fats you can eat see the following article from TheDietChannel: Fats: Best Fats for a Diabetic's Diet.