How Much Dietary Fat Do We Need?

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The dietary role of fats is not simple. Although a moderate amount of fat is needed in everyone's diet, many people go overboard. The consumption of too much fat may be linked to two health problems: obesity and cardiovascular disease.

One tablespoon a day

Good nutrition depends on as little as one tablespoon of dietary fat each day. Most people exceed that amount many times over. While holding off on butter and mayonnaise, they may still be eating large amounts of hidden fat in food.

All fats, no matter what the source, have the same caloric value, but whether you eat more saturated or polyunsaturated fats may make a difference in your blood cholesterol. Nutrition experts recommend a reduction of saturated fats and an increase in polyunsaturated fats in the diet.

Cutting down on fats

The following suggestions may help reduce your fat intake:

  • Include more fruits and vegetables, whole grain cereals, and dried beans and peas in your diet.
  • Switch to leaner meats and other sources of protein. Instead of ground beef, sausage or fatty steaks, choose beef round or rump, and, above all, try to include more fish and poultry (without the skin) in menus.
  • Substitute skim milk and low-fat milk products in recipes and for drinking. Instead of whole milk, cream, ice cream and hard cheese, try skim buttermilk, or 1 or 2 percent milk, yogurt, and low-fat cottage cheese.
  • Cut down on peanut butter, olives, avocados, and cream cheese.
  • Lean low-fat cooking methods such as poaching, steaming, roasting, or broiling instead of frying. Drain off as much fat as possible after cooking. Instead of high-fat gravies, or butter-fat flavoring, serve foods with broth, lemon juice, vinegar, and spices and herbs.
  • Learn to distinguish among the different types of fats -- saturated (butter, lard, shortening); monounsaturated (olive oil, peanut oil); polyunsaturated (corn, cotton seed, safflower, soybean and sunflower oil, most margarines).

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