Friday, December 2, 2011

The Truth about Fats and Oils - December 1st, 2011
The fusion of flavors in stir-fried vegetables. The creaminess of ice cream. The smooth freshness of sliced avocado. The flake in a croissant. These are the benefits of fats and oils from the consumer’s perspective. Enjoying these food experiences is often seen as a guilty pleasure, but there is actually a role for fat in the diet.

Indeed, for every gram of fat, we consume more than twice the calories than we get from an equal weight of carbohydrate or protein (1 g fat yields 9 calories; 1 g protein yields 4 calories; 1 g carbohydrate yields 4 calories). Since food is made up of varying proportions of fat, protein, and carbohydrate, reducing fat in the diet was for many years presumed to be the most efficient way to cut calories without eating less. However, consumers, health professionals, and scientists have learned that aiming to eliminate fat from the diet as a means of weight loss may not be the best solution without attention to overall caloric intake.

First of all, research comparing the effects of diets with equal amounts of calories but varying proportions of fat, carbohydrate, and protein has revealed that there are no differences in weight loss. Calorie reduction matters most, meaning that replacing fats with carbohydrates or proteins may not improve weight loss efforts if calories are held constant, or if the carbohydrate or protein substitution actually increases calories.

Second, fat is satisfying—providing a desired mouth-feel and feeling of fullness. People who do not feel satiated by the food they’ve eaten, either because the flavor was missing or the food was not filling, may be more likely to continue eating in search of those sensations, likely offsetting any caloric deficit created by removing fats from foods.

Beyond the enjoyment and satisfaction that fat adds to foods, it is a critical player in human health. The essential functions of fat in the body are not breaking news, but at times they have been forgotten. Fats—and components of or products of metabolism of fats—are found in the wall of each cell in the human body, and are particularly critical components of the brain and nervous tissue. Fats are used to make hormones that affect such bodily functions as blood pressure, blood clotting, immune function, and smooth muscle contraction. Fat-soluble nutrients, such as vitamins A, D, E, and K and the carotenoids, rely on fat for proper absorption. Protective insulation is provided by subcutaneous fat, and protective cushioning by the thin layer of fat that covers internal organs. It is no surprise, then, that 55 percent of the calories in breast milk come from fats, critical for the developing human body.


Sue Ann Gleason said...

This is so important, Mia. Thanks for posting! As a culinary nutritionist, I see the refugees from the the low fat, no fat war zone and it's not a pretty site. We need healthy fats in our diet for beautiful skin, healthy hair, and brain function. Have you ever found your keys in the refrigerator? That's why! LOL Love your facbook page. So glad I found your blog.

Mia said...

I grew up eating "healthy" fats and never processed so it was just common sense to me to continue. :) Keys in the refrigerator is a new one. LOL

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