What you need to know about fat

Did you know that the number two killer here in Canada is heart disease – not respiratory diseases, diabetes or even automobile accidents, just plain clogging of the arteries? Heart disease accounts for 21% of Canadian deaths each year, and the scary thing is that this statistic is getting bigger each day. Some projections have heart disease over taking cancer as the number one cause of death in Canada in a few years to come (heart disease is already the number one cause of death in the U.S).

Lack of exercise and a diet of high in saturated fat foods is the reason Canadians and North Americans in general do not live longer. Most people take their health for granted until some life threatening event occurs and forces them to make a change. Reducing the bad fats in your diet can not only help you lose some of the excess pounds, but can also save your life. Of course, this is not saying to eliminate all the fat in your daily eating, but at least the saturated fats and the trans-fats in your foods. A moderate amount of good fat is needed for your body to function properly, have healthy hair and skin, and to give you energy for everyday activities.

Some examples of good (monounsaturated/polyunsaturated) fats include olive oil, seeds and nuts, all natural peanut butter, avocados and flax seed oil. These are fats found mostly in plants. Your saturated fats, as mentioned earlier, come from animal products such as butter, cheese, beef, pork and lard used to prepare fried foods. Fried foods, whether cooked in lard or vegetable oil are still not a healthy choice. Keep in mind that you add a large amount of extra calories to your day when you choose to eat fried food. These are the sneaky calories that you don’t notice until your belt is already too tight.

Be aware of deceiving food labels on products marked low-fat, 98% fat-free, reduced fat or low cholesterol. Manufacturers are misleading you into believing that these products are good for you. All you are doing is building a larger bank account for these companies because all fat-free or reduced fat products are at least one dollar higher than their regular products. Another sneaky thing the manufacturers do is that when they say ‘low in fat’ or ‘reduced fat’, they typically only mean lower or reduced from the previous version of the product. The items to look for when reading a food label are fat, sugar, sodium and carbohydrates. Compare the serving size to see if you are really getting a reduced fat item. Some words to watch for in the ingredients column are hydrogenated, triglycerides and tropical oils.

Here are some tips to help you decrease your fat intake without eliminating the taste:

1. Use a non-stick cooking spray or olive oil to sauté foods.

2. Try egg whites instead of whole eggs in your recipes – one whole egg = two egg whites.

3. Try a fat replacement product or applesauce instead of oil in your desert recipes.

4. Use only non-fat dressings on salads or for preparing meals (one good mixture is red wine vinegar, a tablespoon of olive oil and fat free parmesan cheese – mix to taste).

5. Use soft corn tortillas instead of packaged fried ones for tacos.

6. Use no-salt/ no-fat chicken broth for many of your chicken recipes.

7. Careful with nuts in recipes – sprinkle on top instead adding to entire recipe.

8. Be cautious of how much butter you use on a typical day. Watch your portions.