Low Fat Diet
What's In a Label?
There are "fat-free," "low-fat," "light," and "reduced-fat" products available. What do these labels really mean? According to the FDA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) these advertisements translate to the following:
"Fat-free" foods must have less than 0.5 grams of fat per serving.
"Low-fat" foods must have 3 grams of fat or less per serving.
"Reduced-fat" foods must have at least 25% less fat than their traditional counterparts.
"Light" foods must have either 1/3 fewer calories or 50% less fat.
Think Good Fat
When it comes to health, the type of fat you eat may be more important than the amount of fat you eat.
In fact, the eight-year Women's Health Initiative Dietary Modification Trial found that women who ate low-fat diets and those who didn't had nearly identical rates of heart attacks, strokes, and other forms of cardiovascular disease. Other studies have found no link between high-fat diets and other diseases, including cancer, and weight gain.
Keeping the amount of fat in your diet down to about 30% is still important, but what's also important is that you're eating the right kind of heart-healthy fats, the "good fats."
Good Fats Vs. Bad Fats
Cholesterol is essential to all functions in the body, especially hormones and nerve tissue. However, certain types of cholesterol, such as low-density lipoproteins or LDL, pose a health hazard. LDL cholesterol has been linked to atherosclerosis and heart disease. However, some fats are beneficial, such as high-density lipoproteins or HDL.
"Good" fats include both monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Monounsaturated fats (like canola and olive oils) are those that have been found to lower the LDL "bad cholesterol" in the bloodstream and raise the amount of HDL "good cholesterol." HDL appears to actually clear the "bad" types of cholesterol from the blood. Polyunsaturated fats found in fatty fish such as tuna and salmon help lower LDL cholesterol.
"Bad" fats include the saturated fats found in animal products (beef, pork, butter, and other full-fat dairy products). Even worse are trans fats, found in the hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils often used in commercial baked products, fast food, and processed foods.
When it comes to fats, choose lean cuts of meat and fish and low-fat dairy products and eliminate trans fats from your diet as much as possible.
Healthy Eating Tips
Read Food Labels
Before eating a fat-free food, make sure the product isn't loaded with sugar or additives, and that it's actually lower in calories than its traditional counterpart. Also make sure that the suggested serving size isn't so small as to be unrealistic. Become educated on what goes into processed foods as there may be a lot of hidden fats in them.
Watch Your Servings
If you eat three servings of low-fat ice cream, at 3 grams of fat and 250 calories per serving, you're eating 9 grams of fat and 750 calories! Sometimes it's better to eat one serving of truly satisfying whole-fat food and avoid the extra calories and sugar in the low fat version.
Vegetables, Fruits, and Whole Grains
These give you heart-healthy nutrients and fiber to keep you feeling full longer, and they typically have fewer calories. They're also naturally low in fat. A baked potato is healthier than 'baked' potato chips. The whole potato has more nutrients, more fiber, and less calories. Oatmeal (especially steel cut oatmeal), vegetables, and fruit also contain soluble fiber, which "binds" cholesterol, helping the body to excrete it.
Exercise helps reduce cholesterol, burn calories, prevent diseases, and reduce stress. It's crucial for maintaining overall good health, and an important complement to a healthy diet.
Eating less saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol can reduce the levels of fat in your bloodstream. It will also help you reduce the number of calories you eat (as fats are more caloric than protein or carbohydrates). This, in turn, will help keep your weight down — another key factor in controlling LDL levels.
Variety and Moderation
Food metabolism is a very complex blend of nutrients: fat, protein, and carbohydrates. Too much of any, especially processed, is not good. Eat a varied and balanced diet consisting mostly of whole foods.