Healthy Fats: Becoming Fat-Savvy

Don’t Think Low-Fat Think “Right” Fat

Although low-fat diets are the craze, the benefits of healthy fats are too important to overlook in a balanced diet! That’s why instead of a low-fat diet, you should be thinking about a “right” fat diet.

Right fats are good for your heart and brain. The best fats are omega-3 fats. These fats are the prime structural components of brain-cell membranes and the insulation coating of the nerves throughout your nervous system. Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats also help keep your veins free of cholesterol buildup. Consider omega-3s and the mono and poly fats as “right” fats.

The richest sources of omega-3s , and those that your body can readily use (EPA/DHA),  are cold-water fish such as wild salmon and tuna. Flax, pumpkin seeds and walnuts are also excellent sources of omega-3s (ALA), but your body needs to a bit of work to convert them to usable EPA/DHA. The healthiest fats are found in foods that swim (fish) or flow (oils). Unhealthy fats are those that just sit there, like the fat on farmed meat and poultry.

Hydrogenated oils are dumb fats. Hydrogenated oils are the ones that are “twisted” so they don’t spoil quickly. You should avoid any food that contains partially hydrogenated oils (also known as trans fats). As a general guide, consider foods that contain this to be junk food!

healthy fats

Here are some tips for becoming fat-savvy:

Reshape your fat tastes.

Besides being born with a sweet tooth, children have a “fat tooth.” Fat helps food taste good. Packaged-food manufacturers call this the “mouth feel” of food. The tastier the mouth feel, the more of the food you will eat. To compete with the mouth feel of junk fats, focus on eating good fats so your taste buds get used to the mouth feel of healthy fats. If you have already been spoiled by the expected fatty tastes of foods, it may take a while to reprogram your taste buds not to expect all food to taste fatty. Yet, after a few months of “right” fat eating, it’s likely that you will crave less fat and actually find the high fat in fast foods distasteful.

Avoid low-fat products.

Most packaged food companies reduce the fat by raising the sugar content of food. You are better off eating a “right” fat diet, rather than a low-fat, sugary carb diet.

Go fishing!

Fish is one of the best foods available, especially because of the fat in it. Fish is also good for kids! The two omega-3 fats (DHA and EPA) found in fish nourish growing brains the rapidly developing retinas of children’s eyes. While fish is one of the top foods for reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease in adults, it also helps keep the blood vessels of little hearts stay clear of artery-clogging clots – so that you and your children can avoid developing heart problems.

And fish is a rich source of iron, in addition to many vitamins and minerals, a great benefit for those who are prone to iron-deficiency anemia. Besides being a healthy food for  brains, hearts, and eyes, fish is good for muscles. Seafood is one of the most nutrient-dense sources of protein. A four-ounce serving of salmon contains twenty-five grams of protein! Serve fish two or three times a week as part of the family fare, so that your family learns that “fish is what we eat.” Remember, studies show that populations who eat the most fish live longer and healthier lives!

As your child grows, reduce the fat.

Infants and toddlers need a higher percentage of their calories as fats than do older children and adults. While infants may need as much as 50 percent of their daily calories as fats, school-age children need no more than 30 percent, adults no more than 20 percent.

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