Just because a food is labeled fat-free, it may not be a good choice for you. Many fat-free foods contain more sugar or artificial sweeteners, which are even worse, than their full-fat or sugar counterpart. And sugar is only the beginning. Because fat adds taste to a product, fat-free foods often have other chemicals added to them to enhance their taste. Not only are these chemicals harmful, they usually boost the calorie content.
A better choice to look for are low-fat foods. According to the FDA and USDA, they will contain 3 grams of fat or less, and usually won’t have the artificial sweeteners.
Some types of fat are actually good for you; as a matter-of-fact, the body has to have fat to exist. The trick is knowing which type is actually good for you. On the nutrition label, you may find three types of fats:
1) Unsaturated Fat
Both the poly and mono types of unsaturated fat are great sources of good fat. Some examples of each are:
• Soybean oil
• Corn oil
• Safflower oil
• Sunflower, sesame, and pumpkin seeds
• Fatty fish (salmon, tuna, mackerel, herring, trout, sardines)
• Olive oil
• Canola oil
• Sunflower oil
• Peanut oil
• Sesame oil
• Nuts (almonds, peanuts, macadamia nuts, hazelnuts, pecans, cashews)
• Peanut butter
As you may have noticed with the oils, they remain a liquid at room temperature – a sure sign of an unsaturated fat. The fish listed above are also high in Omega 3, a type of fat that lowers the bad LDL cholesterol.
2) Saturated Fat
When it comes to saturated fat, limit yourself to no more than 10% of your 20% total daily fat requirement; you can tell a saturated fat by its consistency at room temperature – it will be a solid, like butter, shortening, or stick margarine. Some examples of this bad fat are:
• Hydrogenated Oils, such as Palm and Coconut
• Rendered Animal Fats
• Processed Meats
• Whipped Cream
3) Trans Fat
Stay away from trans fats altogether. They are a manufactured fat that the body does not know how to process. While the label may show 0 grams of trans fat, the product can actually have up to 0.5 gram and not be required to show it on the label. Look for the words “hydrogenated” or “partially hydrogenated” in the list of ingredients; these are trans fats.
So in the realm of food, fat-free is not a good option. A much better choice is food low in unsaturated fat. Not only are they heart-healthy, but they will keep your bad cholesterol in check and promote your good cholesterol. Bon appetit!