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Healthy Eating at Work

Choosing Healthy Foods
:: Fat

In spite of everything you hear, FAT is not a bad word.

Fat is needed to help your body absorb the vitamins A, E, D and K. It provides you with energy, protects vital organs, and helps your body store heat during those long winters. And Fat makes you look good too because it's an important component of your body cells which help to maintain healthy skin.

Where Does Fat Come From?

Most of the fat we eat comes from meat and alternatives, fats and oils, and milk and alternatives. Vegetables and fruit have very little fat. Most products in the grain food group are low in fat except when they are baked into cakes, pastries, muffins and other baked goods.

How much fat should I eat?

Fat should only make up about 20%-35% of your total calorie intake.

For example, if you're eating 2000 calories a day, you can safely consume 44-78 grams of fat each day.

Keep in mind, though, that consuming too many calories from any source can boost your weight over the years, increasing the risk of heart disease, obesity and diabetes.

The type of fat you eat is important for your heart's health. Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids may protect your heart from heart disease. Saturated and trans fats, on the other hand, might increase your risk for heart disease.

Canadians should limit saturated and trans fats to only 10% of their daily calories.

All fats found in foods are a mixture of saturated fat, monounsaturated fat and polyunsaturated fat. Foods are classified based on the primary type of fat they contain. Many processed foods also contain hydrogenated fat also known as trans fat.

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What are the different types of fat?

Saturated fats

- are usually solid at room temperature. Saturated fats raise LDL or "bad" cholesterol levels.

Foods high in saturated fat include:

  • Fatty meats
  • High fat dairy products
  • Palm oil
  • Palm kernel oil
  • Coconut oil

Hydrogenated fats or trans fats

- are liquid fats that have been made into hard fats. They act like saturated fats in the body.
Trans fats raise LDL or "bad" cholesterol levels and lower HDL or "good" cholesterol levels.

Foods high in trans fats include:

  • Some pre-packaged baked goods like cookies, granola bars and muffins
  • Margarine made with hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated vegetable oil
  • Many foods found in the "snack" isle of the grocery store

Monounsaturated fatsMonounsaturated fats

- are liquid at room temperature.
Monounsaturated fats will not increase your LDL or "bad" cholesterol levels.

Foods high in monounsaturated fat include:

  • Canola, peanut and olive oil
  • Nuts such as pecans, peanuts and almonds
  • Avocados
  • Olives

Polyunsaturated fats

- are also liquid at room temperature.
Polyunsaturated fats will not increase your LDL or "bad" cholesterol levels.

Polyunsaturated fatsThey come from plant sources such as:

  • Corn
  • Safflower and sunflower oils
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Flaxseed
  • Walnuts
  • Soybeans
  • Fish such as salmon, mackerel, sardines and tuna

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How can you change the type of fat you eat?

We all need fat in our diets. Make sure that the fat you eat is beneficial to you.

Here are some tips for changing the type of fat you eat:

Cook with olive, canola, corn, safflower or sunflower oils instead of butter or ghee (clarified butter).

Make your favourite baked goods with oil or non-hydrogenated margarine instead of butter, shortening or lard.

Try eating cold-water fish such as salmon, mackerel, sardines or tuna once a week.

How can you decrease the amount of fat in your diet?

Fat and Calorie Saving Tips:

  • Eat more fruits and vegetables daily. You'll have less room for high fat foods.
  • Choose skim or low-fat milk and alternatives.
  • Trim fat from meat and remove skin from poultry.
  • Use light or fat-free mayonnaise and salad dressings.
  • Sauté in defatted chicken broth or non-stick cooking spray instead of oil.
  • Substitute small bagels or English muffins for biscuits and croissants.
  • Spread toast with jam or honey instead of butter or margarine.
  • Reduce meat portions to 21/2 ounces (about the size of a deck of cards) per serving. Compliment meat with larger servings of vegetables, fruit and grains such as whole wheat pasta or brown rice.
  • Read food labels and select the lower fat alternative for the products you purchase.

Read the Nutrition Facts table on food packages:

  • Reading the label is a good way to identify the total fat and type of fat in your favourite foods.
  • Visit the Nutrition Labelling website.

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Choosing Healthy Food

Revised: February 09, 2010

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