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Diet Part 4-Fat, fats and more fats


I trust that you had a very blessed Christmas and are now full of energy to meet the New Year. I can’t believe it myself-2008 is here! Recall a few weeks back: what is the number one resolution? “Eat better and exercise more.” We are working on the first part with this diet series.{{more}}

A few years ago, the basic diet information given to almost everyone was “follow a low fat, low cholesterol diet.” We now know that it is more complicated than that, and the type of fats plays a large role in development of problems like heart disease. For the average person, dietary cholesterol makes up about 25% of our measured cholesterol, and our bodies make the other 75%. Wait, you say, if only 25% comes from food, why should I worry about this? Well, just like anything in life, if you can exert some level of control over something that can harm you, why not do it? If you had a chance to alter a quarter of your house mortgage, wouldn’t you try it? Or 25% of your grades in school? Of course you would. Onward we go.

First the bad guys:

Trans-fats and saturated fats: Lately, trans-fats have made the news many times. Several cities are trying to have them banned from restaurant foods. Most manufacturers have to list them on their labels distinctly from everything else. Why all the fuss? Trans-fats are probably the worst type of fats known at this time. They raise the bad cholesterol, lower the good, and can lead to inflammation of your arteries. Therefore, recommendation #1: AVOID trans-fats as much as possible! Where are these evil fats? You can find them in many processed foods (like commercial cookies), fast foods, and firm margarine/lard type oils. If you are not sure, check out your food nutrition labels, which should have the types of fats listed.

Saturated fats are along the same lines but not quite as bad as the trans-fats. You can find saturated fats in eggs, meat, whole-milk dairy, chicken skin, coconut and coconut oil. For most of us, saturated fats do not need to be eliminated, but should be limited. An egg-a-day for most people is not a big deal, but if you have cholesterol problems, diabetes or heart disease, you should be limiting your eggs to probably not more than 3 times a week (if you only have the egg white, then you can have it more often).

Unless you have a genetic problem that causes you to have difficulties with cholesterol and thus be on a VERY strict diet (I have had these patients, and they are my heroes because I don’t know if I could follow a diet as strict as theirs), you do not need to completely avoid saturated fats, but they certainly should not make up the majority of your fat intake. The good fats, on the other hand, can do wonderful things, so we’ll move on to those next week….

Anita Ramsetty, MD [email protected]
Medical Director Endocrine Care Group