4 Important questions about dietary fat

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4 Important questions about dietary fat

Facts about fat can be confusing.  One day it ok to eat eggs, the next day we’re told eggs should be avoided. Which is worse, trans fats or saturated fat?  All valid questions but each can vary on the answer depending on who is giving out the information.

Dietary fats we consume from food, whether that fat comes in the form of 2 sticks of butter added to chocolate chip cookie batter or fat found naturally in salmon, can much a huge difference in our overall health.  One type of fat is not so healthy in comparison to the other.  To tackle some of the more puzzling but important questions many consumers have, here are the answers to three common questions many of you may have:

1. Do eggs increase my cholesterol?

It’s hard to find a food such as eggs packing as much high quality protein, antioxidants, essential nutrients for eye health, muscle strength, brain function, is affordable and provide only 70 calories and 5 grams of fat.

For years we’ve been told to avoid eggs – particularly the yolk. Its true egg yolks do contain cholesterol and fat while eggs whites are cholesterol and fat free.  But now solid research shows that for most people, cholesterol in food does not affect blood levels of total cholesterol like we once thought.  In fact, research now says moderate egg consumption of up to one egg a day does not increase health disease risk in healthy people. 

A main reason for this is chickens of today are being fed a higher quality diet feed than what they were in the past so eggs now contain only 186 mg of cholesterol, down from 215 mg, which is a 14 percent decrease.  

Cholesterol is a type of fat that may lead to heart disease. Only the egg yolk contains cholesterol so you can have as many egg whites as you wish.  However, those who find it difficult to control their total and LDL cholesterol should still limit their intake of egg yolks and instead choose foods made with egg whites. 

2.  Which is better – butter or margarine?

If your goal is to limit artery-clogging saturated fat, margarine beats butter. However, both contain the approximate same amount of total fat – 11 grams per tablespoon. Butter has more saturated fat, 7 grams compared to 3 grams in regular stick margarine. Trans fat raises cholesterol so, look for margarine with 0 trans fat. Different fats serve different purposes in cooking and baking, so it’s important to consider your overall diet in making your choice.

For now, look upon butter as a sort of neutral food but only when used in small amounts.  A small amount used here and there won’t doom your dietary patterns but keep in mind one tablespoon of butter contains 102 calories, 11.5 grams of fat, with 7.3 grams coming from saturated fat.  A little butter spread sparingly on bread or a small dollop added to steamed vegetables may be fine.  It’s when we get carried away adding mounds of butter to everything that the effect can be harmful. 

Both butter and margarine can be used in small amounts on occasion but don’t have them sitting out on the kitchen table – it’ll be too tempting to use.  Remember - moderation really is key and it appears moderate to very occasional use of both butter and margarine is best. 

3.  Which type of oil should I use?

When it comes to choosing oils, it all depends of what purpose you are using them for.  For example, some oils are best used for baking while others are ideally meant for use in a salad dressing. Remember, all oils are mixtures of saturated and unsaturated fats. Unsaturated fats help the good fats that help lower LDL or “bad” cholesterol. Canola oi, which contains the least amount of saturated fat, is a mild-flavored, versatile oil good for both baking and cooking. Olive oil, which is very high in monounsaturated fat, contains a substance (squalene) which has anti-inflammatory properties and slows clot formation. Its distinctive flavor makes it a staple for Mediterranean cuisines. Nut oils – peanut, walnut, almond, hazelnut – have delicate subtle flavors and are also high in monounsaturated fats. Flaxseed oil, exceptionally high in ALA, an omega-3 fat, cannot be used in cooking, but is fine for salad dressings.

Also, a one tablespoon serving of any oil usually contains around 100 calories. 

4.  Are there certain types of fat that should always be avoided?

This is a tough question as it’s difficult to give a simple answer. The impact of any individual food, including fat, on your health depends on many factors, including the amount you eat, how often you eat it, how you use it in cooking, and if you have any dietary restrictions due to a food allergy or food intolerance.

Most Registered Dietitians avoid labeling foods as “good” or “bad” including fat but to instead, look at them in relation to all the foods you eat daily. Most of us can eat any food we want but if you have certain health conditions such as heart disease, you might not be able to have that food as much as you like or eat it as often as you like. The key to the consumption of just about any food is to use common sense and to eat them in moderation.