Good fats, bad fats, low-fat, fat-free, low-calorie. These are just some of the many terms that get thrown at us as consumers daily by food manufacturers. They are enticing and intriguing especially with Americans’ preoccupation with body image. The fact is that we need fats, and reduced fat items have more sugar added to them to enhance the flavor. What you may think is a conscious effort to be healthy may result in the unintended outcomes and sabotage. Fats get a bad reputation and are one of the first nutrients monitored when people begin their quest for health. It is true that all fats are not equal and some promote health while others increase the risk of heart disease, it is also true that fats help nutrient absorption, nerve transmission, and maintaining cell membrane integrity. The key is to replace the bad fats with good fats in our diet.
Good fats include monounsaturated fats (MUFAs) and polyunsaturated fats. They lower total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol). MUFAs aid in increasing HDL cholesterol and have been found to help weight loss, especially in body fat. Food stuffs that supply MUFAs include nuts such as peanuts, walnuts, almonds, and pistachios, avocado, canola and olive oil. Polyunsaturated fats include the well-known group omega 3 fatty acids. Seafood such as salmon and fish oil, corn, soy, safflower and sunflower oils are high of this type of fat.
Bad fats include saturated fats and the highly talked about trans fats. Saturated fats raise total blood cholesterol and LDL cholesterol. They are mainly found in animal products such as meat, dairy, eggs and seafood. Some plant foods such as coconut oil, palm oil and palm kernel oil are also high in saturated fats. Trans fats are not found in nature, but were invented as scientists began to "hydrogenate" liquid oils so that they can withstand better in food production process and provide a better shelf life. Trans fatty acids are found in many commercially packaged foods, commercially fried food, other packaged snacks as well as in vegetable shortening and hard stick margarine.
To reduce your intake of bad fats consider these simple changes. Avoid using cooking oils that are high in saturated fats and/or trans fats such as coconut oil, palm oil or vegetable shortening. Instead, use oils that are low in saturated fats and high in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats such as canola oil, olive oil and flax seed oil. Minimize using commercially packaged foods which are high in trans fats, and read labels to look for trans-fat free alternatives. Use lower-fat dairy products such as 1% or skim milk instead of whole milk and trim visible fats and skins from meat products to reduce saturated fats.
The truth about fats and calories is not the only myth surrounding nutrition. Other common myths seen in the dieting and the nutrition world are brown eggs are more nutritious than white, avoid carbohydrates to lose weight, avoid nuts because they are fattening, eating for two is necessary during pregnancy, and red meat is bad for health. All of these “truths” can easily be debunked with the knowledge of dietitians and their work.
1. Brown Eggs are more nutritious than White Eggs
This widely believed myth that the color of the eggshell has an affect on the eggs overall nutritional value has no scientific support. The color has nothing to do with the nutritional value, quality, flavor, cooking characteristics, or shell thickness. It only tells you what breed of hen produced the egg. The white shelled eggs are produced by hens with white feathers and white earlobes whereas the brown shelled eggs are produced by hens with red feathers and red earlobes.
2. Avoid carbohydrates to lose weight
Many low-carb diets convey the message that carbohydrates promote insulin production, which in turn results in weight gain. The problem is many low-carb diets do not provide sufficient carbohydrates to your body for daily maintenance. This means the body will begin to burn stored carbohydrates (glycogen) for energy, and when your body starts burning glycogen, water is released. This water release is the reason for the initial weight loss of a low-carb diet. These diets are often calorie-restricted allowing an average of1000 - 1400 calories, compared to 1800 - 2200 calories needed for most people. Carbohydrates are not the pinnacle of successful weight loss. You can lose weight by healthfully reducing your caloric intake by 500 calories per day in respect to your normal diet.
3. Avoid Nuts because they are fattening
Nuts are caloric and it is easy to overeat them, but when properly portioned nuts can be part of a healthy diet. Nuts are high in good fats, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, as well as plant sterols, which have all been shown to lower bad LDL cholesterol. Instead of simply adding nuts to your diet, the best approach is to eat them in replacement of foods high in saturated fats.
4. Eating for two is necessary during pregnancy
The idea that pregnancy allows for women to eat double and ice cream is a free-for-all is a nutrition myth. Generally it is recommended that pregnant women increase their daily intake by 100 kcal in the first trimester and 300 kcal in the second and third trimesters. A daily prenatal multivitamin supplement is recommended and an extra snack before bedtime such as a piece of fruit, a serving of milk or yogurt, and a few biscuits is enough.
5. Red Meat is bad for health
Some studies have linked red meat with increased risk of heart disease due to the saturated fat content, but even chicken can contain as much saturated fat as a cut of lean pork or beef. Poultry is naturally lower in saturated fats but only if you do not eat the skin. Red meat altogether is not bad for your health. Instead of excluding red meat altogether, choose leaner cuts. For beef, choose eye of round, top round roast, top sirloin and flank; for pork, choose tenderloin and loin chops.