Fat has become a dirty word in the English language. It is synonymous with unsightly, lazy and ugly. Unfortunately, the fat that describes overweight and the fat that describes an essential macronutrient are two different words that are often confused. The fat found in food can have positive or negative health implications. It is therefore necessary for you to differentiate between good and bad fats.
1. Animal Products. Any fat that comes from an animal is higher in saturated (bad) fat. This includes meat, milk, cheese, butter and cream. Most of these products come in low fat varieties which can taste the same as the original. Butter can also be substituted for spreads made from vegetable oils and contain little saturated fats.
2. Fast Food. Most meals at fast food restaurants contain more saturated fat than you are supposed to get in an entire day. The recommendation is that you only get 10% of your calories from saturated fat. If you are on a 2000 calorie diet, 10% is about 20 grams of saturated fat (or about 200 calories). Most fast food restaurants now have nutrition information that you should take advantage of. Check the label before you buy it. Chicken sandwiches will almost always have less saturated fat (and calories) than hamburgers. Skip the cheese and bacon for even less saturated fat.
3. Meat. Meat can contain a large amount of fat depending on the type that you eat. Beef and pork products are typically the highest in fat content and most of it is saturated. There are always lean alternatives that contain less fat. Fish is a great alternative to beef and pork. Fish is low in saturated fat while high in unsaturated (good) fat.
4. Hydrogenated Oils. Hydrogenated oils add trans (worst type) fat. Sources include most junk foods, non-natural peanut butter, fast food, vegetable shortening and margarine. To avoid trans fat, check the nutrition label and make sure the food is not made with hydrogenated oil.
5. Specific Examples. Now that you know the general rules of how to find bad fats in your diet, here are a few specific examples of foods that you should avoid or at least minimize your intake of:
- red meat
- whole fat milk
- ice cream
- any food that is made from hydrogenated oil (check the nutrition label)
The Bottom Line
Fats are not all bad and should not be indiscriminately cut from your diet. Saturated and trans fats have been shown to increase your cholesterol levels and risk of heart disease while some unsaturated fats can do the opposite. Separating the good fats from the bad ones will allow you to reduce your calorie intake and lose weight in a smart and healthy way.