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Medicine LibreTexts

5.9: A Personal Choice about Lipids

Skills to Develop

  • Discuss ways to decrease saturated fat and cholesterol intake and increase unsaturated fat intake in your diet.

A Guide to Making Sense of Dietary Fat

On your next trip to the grocery store prepare yourself to read all food labels carefully and to seriously consider everything that goes into your shopping cart. Create a shopping list and divide your list into columns for “Best,” “Better,” “Good,” “Least Desirable,” and “Infrequent Foods.” As you refine your sense of dietary fat, here are key points to bear in mind:

Shopping for groceries. Don’t be bombarded with gratuitous grams of saturated fats and empty grams of trans fats. Read and decipher food labels carefully so that you know exactly what types of fat a food item contains and how much fat it will contribute to your overall fat intake. For snacks and daily eating, gravitate toward foods that are lowest in or absent of harmful trans fats. Restrict other foods to occasional usage based upon their fat content. For example, if selecting prepared foods, choose the ones without high-fat sauces in favor of adding your own flavorings. If selecting precooked meats, avoid those that are fried, coated, or prepared in high-fat sauces. A popular and healthy precooked meat food choice is the rotisserie chicken that most supermarkets carry. When selecting meats be aware of the need to compare different cuts—notice their fat content, color, and marbling. Higher-fat meats tend to have whiter fat marbled throughout. Choose lean cuts and white meat as these are lower in saturated fat. Always choose plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds, as their phytosterols are a good competitor for cholesterol. Keep a collection of nuts in your freezer that can be added to your salads, stir-fry, one-dish foods, soups, desserts, and yogurts.

Appearance. Saturated and trans fats are not good for you and must be placed in your “Least Desirable” column because they increase cholesterol levels and put you at risk for heart disease. Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are better choices to replace these undesirable fats. The key in identifying the “Best” or “Better” fats from the “Least Desirable” fats while you shop is based upon appearance. When choosing fats remember that saturated fats and trans fats are solid at room temperature; think of butter. Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature; think of vegetable oil.

 

Figure 5.9.1: When a lipid molecule is unhydrogenated, the double bonds between the carbons keep it kinky and a liquid at room temperature. If that fat realigns into the trans formation, it gets straighter, forming up into a solid.

Note: Trans Fats

Stay away from trans fats. There is no amount of trans fats that are good for human health. Try to eliminate as much of these fats as possible from your food selections. Avoid commercially baked goods and fast foods. Make these your “Infrequent Foods.”

Choose unsaturated fats. Fatty fish, walnuts, flaxseeds, flaxseed oil, and canola oil all have good health benefits and should be on the “Best,” “Better,” and “Good” fat lists. They each provide essential omega-3 fatty acids necessary for overall body health. To derive the most benefit from including these foods, do not add them to an existing diet full of fat. Use these to replace the “Least Desirable” fats that are being removed from the diet. Be careful of exposing fats and oils to heat, light, and oxygen as they can be easily damaged. Exercise caution when heating oils. Polyunsaturated fats are the most fragile and lose beneficial properties when exposed to heat. For proper storage and freshness, place your oils in opaque containers and keep refrigerated. Do not use any oil if it has a bitter smell or taste.

Limit saturated fat intake. Reduce red meat consumption, processed meats, and whole-fat dairy products. A good replacement for red meat could be beans (black beans are very high in protein), nuts, poultry, and fish whenever possible. To reduce full-fat dairy items try their low-fat or nonfat counterparts such as mozzarella cheese.

Low fat does not equal healthy. Remember, a fat-free label does not provide you with a license to consume all the calories you desire. There will be consequences to your weight and your overall health. Common replacements for fat in many fat-free foods are refined carbohydrates, sugar, and calories. Too much of these ingredients can also cause health problems. Choose and consume wisely.

Tools for Change

As a delicious alternative to red meat, try preparing and eating at least one meal each week using beans. For interesting ideas and tips, visit http://www.swbeans.com.

Helpful Suggestions

Keep the following in mind as you strive toward a healthier diet:

  • A “better-fat” diet will successfully support weight loss. With the obesity rates in the United States more than tripling since 1980, it is interesting to note that this figure has presented itself and increased at a time when “low fat” advertising runs rampant throughout the food supply. While cutting “Least Desirable” fat calories are vital to weight loss, remember that “Better” fats are filling and just a handful of nuts can curb an appetite to prevent overeating.
  • Consume omega-3 fats each day. For optimal health and disease prevention include a moderate serving of fish, walnuts, ground flaxseeds, flaxseed oil, or soybean oil in your diet every day.
  • Limit cholesterol-rich foods. The following foods should be limited from the diet in order to reduce blood cholesterol: chicken livers, beef, pork, fast foods, pastries, butter, cheese, and ice cream.
  • How much saturated fat is too much? Your goal is to keep your intake of saturated fat to no more than 10 percent of your total dietary calories on a daily basis. Thus, it is important to learn to reduce the intake of foods high in saturated fat. High-fat foods can be consumed but they must fall within the overall goal for a person’s fat allowance for the day.
  • Home cooking. Limit the use of saturated fats in home preparation of meals. Instead of butter try spreads made from unsaturated oils such as canola or olive oils and the use of cooking sprays. Couple this with the use of herbs and spices to add flavor. Avoid using high-fat meat gravies, cheese, and cream sauces. Limit adding extras to foods such as butter on a baked potato. Use nonfat sour cream instead. Grill, bake, stir-fry, roast, or bake your foods. Never fry in solid fats such as butter or shortening. Marinate foods to be grilled in fruit juices and herbs. Instead of relying upon commercial salad dressings, learn to make your own top-quality dressing from cold-pressed olive oil, flaxseed oil, or sesame oil.

Make sure the fat is flavorful. Adding flavor to food is what makes the eating experience enjoyable. Why not choose unsaturated fats and oils that have strong flavors? In this way you will add good flavor to your meals but use less fat in the process. Some examples are sesame oil, peanut oil, and peanut butter. Replace less flavorful cheeses with small amounts of strongly flavored cheeses such as romano, parmesan, and asiago.

Now that you have gained a wealth of information and food for thought to enable you to make changes to your dietary pattern we hope that your desire to pursue a healthier lifestyle has been solidified. While we realize that making grand strides in this direction may be awkward at first, even the smallest of accomplishments can produce noticeable results that will spur you on and perhaps spark the interest of friends and family to join you in this health crusade.

Becoming aware of the need to limit your total fat intake will facilitate your ability to make better choices. In turn, making better dietary choices requires gaining knowledge. As you understand that your food choices not only impact your personal physical health but also the delicate balance of our ecosystem, we are confident that you will successfully adapt to the dynamics of the ever-changing global food supply. Remember, the food choices you make today will benefit you tomorrow and into the years to come.

Key Takeaways

  • To reduce saturated fat in your diet, eat less red and processed meat and more fish and chicken. Choose lean cuts of meat and white meat portions. Bake, broil, or grill instead of fry. Avoid deep-fried foods, cheeses, and creamy cheese sauces. Remove the skin from chicken and remove as much fat from meat as possible. Choose low-fat milk and lower fat cheeses, such as mozzarella, where possible. Use liquid vegetable oils such as olive oil or canola oil instead of shortening or butter.
  • In order to reduce blood cholesterol, restrict the consumption of eggs, chicken livers, beef, pork, shrimp, crustaceans, fast foods, pastries, butter, cheese, and ice cream.
  • To gain the most benefit from reducing your saturated fat intake, substitute unsaturated fats in the place of saturated fats and trans fats. Do not add unsaturated fats to an already fatty diet. Fill your plate with plant-based foods and use the foods containing fat more as an accompaniment.

Discussion Starters

  1. Think of at least three ways to reduce, substitute, and eliminate from your diet foods that are higher in less-desirable fat. List some foods that you will add to your diet that will add bulk and help satisfy your need to eat, but do not contain the calories in fat-rich foods.
  2. Make a list of your favorite snack foods. Then make a listing of the fat content in each. Decide what snack foods you should reduce or eliminate from your diet. Think of at least two replacement foods for these snacks. Tell what benefit these replacement foods will have on your overall health.
  3. Make a list of all the common foods you eat that contain trans fats. Looking ahead, develop a plan of action for you to slowly eliminate as much of these fats from your diet as possible. What substitutes will you add in their place? How will you cut out trans fats from your diet?