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Let's face the fat - Medically Speaking, Volume Three, Number Eight, 2/18/16

Fats have a not-so-good reputation. In general, fats are thought to literally cause "fat" on our bodies and clog our arteries to the point of causing a heart attack. There is truth to those scenarios, but there is more to fat than the weight-gaining, artery clogging information that is out there.

Fat is high in energy and that is why it is thought of as causing that muffin top. A diet high in fat translates to a high calorie diet. If the energy we eat is not used or burned it will turn into fat. Fat must be eaten in moderation, but we could not cut it from our diet completely for a few reasons.

1. Fat tastes good and gives a food a rich flavor.

2. Fat also provides wonderful texture and mouthfeel, giving food creamy, tender, and flaky qualities

3. Fat is needed to absorb vitamins A, D, E, and K. These vitamins have different functions, such as to keep our skin soft, our eyes sharp, bones strong, and they help our body stop bleeding when injured. These vitamins do so much more for us, but I will save that for another article.

4. Fat itself is used for different functions in the body. Without it people can lose their hair, feel fatigued, and experience poor wound healing. Fat is important for our bodies to function but, just like anything, too much can cause issues. To further confusion with fats, not all fats are created equally.

There are two categories of fat; saturated fat and unsaturated fat. These types of fats can be broken down even further. In general, a diet high in saturated fats is associated with higher levels of total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol. Higher than normal amounts of these put people at a higher risk for heart disease. Unsaturated fats have heart protective properties. Switch- ing saturated fats for unsaturated fats can help you with getting some of those protective benefits.

An example of an unsaturated fat is monounsaturated fat. When saturated fats are switched to monounsaturated fatty acids, the not-so-heart-healthy LDL cholest- erol lowers. More research is being done on all the benefits of monounsaturated fats. One study by the American Heart Association is looking to see if a diet high in monounsaturated fats can help people lose fat in that pesky midsection area.

Knowing what monounsaturated fats are and how they can benefit us is only half the battle, we need to know how we can get these good-for-you fats in our diet.

• Switching pork, chicken, or red meat with fish 1-2 nights a week can increase our monounsaturated intake and decrease saturated fat. Good choices include cod, halibut, salmon and sardines. Even tuna has monounsaturated fats.

• Switching all or ½ of the butter in a recipe with either olive oil or canola oil.

• When baking, replace ¼ cup of butter with 3 tablespoons of olive or canola oil.

• Switch Mayo on a sandwich with avocado. Avocado provides the texture and creaminess while adding vitamin E and monounsaturated fats to your meal.

• Snacking on a handful of peanuts or walnuts can add monounsaturated fats. It has even more health benefits when they are switched for other snack food items such as chips or sweets.

• Switching regular eggs with eggs fortified with Omega-3 fatty acids.

Please email me with questions for the next article at lhannibal@unhsinc.org

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