What’s “Good” – What’s “Bad” – and What Should I Do?
So much dietary information – how to process it all?
As with most things that are related to what we eat and the effect of certain foods on our bodies – the research, information, and advice about dietary “fat” has exploded; it’s on the internet, it’s being written about in books, it’s a topic in educational forums, and a major subject in the medical community. The sheer volume of advice, counseling, help, suggestions, hints, tips, pointers, opinions, views, directions, recommendations, and guidance on fat – and what kind of fat to eat and not eat – is overwhelming.
Positive change doesn’t have to be hard or complicated
What makes this more confusing is that the information can often be contradictory – e.g.:
“A little is ok, you can eat this much…” versus “No amount is ok – never eat it…”
“You should eat this…” or “Whatever you do – don’t eat this [very same thing],” etc. etc.
Another problem is that there are “experts” that put forth their ideas in the form of “commandments,” rather than opinions and/or suggestions. And while many of these experts are indeed expert and do have very valid points and evidence to back them up, I have found that few people like to be ordered or browbeaten into change. This is why I feel that the best thing I can do – in this venue – is to make changing a few eating behaviors as appealing and uncomplicated as possible.
To make changes in your diet – start simply
In trying to figure out how to help my patients make dietary choices that will help them heal the issues they come to me for, I confess it’s been difficult for me – as a medical professional – to sort through the avalanche of data and come up with guidelines that are simple and painless enough for my patients to actually follow. My goal here is to put together information that’s easy to listen to, understand, and incorporate into their lives.
So, as I have done with sugar, and most recently – carbohydrates – I am going to try and give easy explanations and establish a few very clear, very simple guidelines that can be followed without completely purging your pantry and taking several pages of notes to the grocery store with you.
DIETARY FATS – The “GREAT,” the “VERY GOOD,” the “GOOD/OK” – and the “NOT AS GOOD BUT SOME WON’T KILL YOU,” and – the “BAD”
Obviously – there is “healthy” and “unhealthy” when it comes to fats, and the reason its become such a huge issue is that the kind and amount of fat that you eat can make a profound difference in your health. Basically, the lists below can be used as a guide. If you make your food choices based on including foods on the lists numbered 1 through 4 – this is what you want your diet to include for optimum health. The foods on #5 are simply never good for you – in any quantity.
1) GREAT – MONO-UNSATURATED FATS:
- Olive oil
- Canola oil
- Sunflower oil
- Peanut oil
- Sesame oil
- Nuts (almonds, peanuts, macadamia nuts, hazelnuts, pecans, cashews)
- Peanut butter
2) VERY GOOD – OMEGA 3’S:(*caveat – because mercury is a problem, limit servings to no more than 12 oz a week; pregnant women should seek additional advice on amounts – and children should be served small portions) :
- Salmon (best source of omega 3’s, but needs to be wild-caught)
- light tuna (not albacore or “white” tuna)
- rainbow trout
3) GOOD/OK – POLYUNSATURATED FATS:
- soybean oil
- corn oil
- safflower oil
- sunflower, sesame, pumpkin, and flax seeds
- fatty fish (tuna, salmon, mackerel, herring, trout, sardines)
4) NOT AS GOOD BUT SOME WON’T KILL YOU – SATURATED FATS:
- full fat yogurt
- full fat cottage cheese
- full fat sour cream
- coconut oil
- palm oil
- dark chocolate
The final list – #5 The “BAD,” is the list of foods that contain trans fat. Trans fat is fat that’s produced in a laboratory; it doesn’t occur naturally. It’s created by combining a form of saturated fat (either natural or artificial) with hydrogen, so that it doesn’t spoil. This means it acts as a preservative, so it will extend the shelf life of foods, while it also improves their taste and texture. Added to that – it’s incredibly inexpensive, which means its an economical way to increase profits, which is why food manufacturing companies have included it for years as a means of increasing their profits.
5) BAD – TRANS FATS:
- deep fried foods
- fast foods – sandwiches/burritos/tacos, etc.
- store bought cookies and cakes
- pre-packaged puddings
- many candies – Snickers & peanut butter M&M’s, etc.
- many high-sugar cereals
- many kinds of chips – potato, tortilla, Frito’s, etc.
- granola bars, even “healthy” ones
- refrigerated cookie dough
- dessert mixes
- frosting mixes
- frozen meals/TV dinners
- hot cocoa mix
- ready made frostings
- pie crusts
- non-dairy creamers
- butter flavoring in microwave popcorn
- creamy frozen dairy drinks from chain drive-ins
Looking at the list above, it’s clear that the majority of food the average American eats on a daily basis contains trans fat. If you just read the labels, you will see that one out of every 10 packaged or pre-prepared food item contains some form of trans fat, which is an alarming statistic. While I try to refrain from all or nothing absolutes – the truth is that foods on the trans fat list are simply incredibly bad choices for anyone, no matter their age or how healthy they are. I cannot – and do not, in good conscience, recommend even a small amount of these foods.
That said, I understand well that these foods are often the most economical choices, and for that reason alone, its difficult to cut them out of America’s diet completely. If it’s possible however, I always advise attempting to at least cut down on these foods as much as possible. Anytime you can make fresh or homemade meals from scratch for your family, rather than using pre-prepared or prepackaged foods in any form – you are doing your family’s health a good turn.