Monday, November 23, 2015

Healthy Fats & Oils, Part 1

Are you confused about whether to pick butter or margarine and which oil is best?  This blog we will discuss saturated and trans fats. Next time we’ll compare cooking oils.

Saturated Fats
Fats and oils are made of fatty acids which can be saturated or unsaturated.  Foods high in saturated fats have been found to cause heart disease in research for decades.  They have also been linked to a higher risk for Alzheimer’s disease and some cancers. Leading medical and heart health organizations in the US, Canada, and Britain all currently advise limiting saturated fat to less than 10-16 gm daily (<7% of calories).  

What are the most common sources of saturated fat?
Cheese (18 gm/3 ounces)                             Fried chicken (12 gm/2 pieces)
Pizza      (10-12gm/2 slices)                           Whopper®, Big Mac®, etc. (10-15 gm)
Milkshake, Blizzard®, etc. (10-25 gm)      Hot Dogs (12 gm/2 hot dogs)
Tropical oils like coconut oil or palm oil are also saturated fats.  Coconut oil may be a popular choice right now, but there is no proof it is a healthy choice.

What is Trans Fat?
Trans fats are the really bad fats, proven to promote heart disease. Trans fats are made when healthy, liquid oils are chemically changed to become solid fats.  Another name for trans fat is “partially hydrogenated oil”.  The American Heart Association recommends limiting trans fat to 2gm or less daily.

How to avoid Trans Fat
Read the label’s ingredient list.  If it lists “partially hydrogenated oil”, it contains some trans fat.  Even if the label lists 0 gm trans fat, in the U.S. there could be up to .5 gm per serving.  If you eat more than one serving of the food, you will get more trans fat than you think.
Common foods which often contain more than 2 gm trans fat per serving:

  • Commercial and restaurant baked goods, like pies, cakes and biscuits
  • Deep-fried foods like French fries, breaded fish, chips and donuts

Butter vs Margarine
Margarine now contains little or no grams of trans fat and small amounts of saturated fat.  Butter contains 0 trans fat, but 7 gm saturated fat/Tbsp.  So how to choose?  Here are some suggestions:

  • Use oils rather than butter for sautéing and baking when possible.
  • Read margarine and shortening labels; avoid any which list “partially hydrogenated oil” and choose the lowest saturated fat amounts.
  • If you prefer butter, try whipped butter or butter/oil blends (half the saturated fat).
  • Feel confident, knowing you have made a well-informed choice for your family’s health!