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Healthy Eating Guidelines - Should Fats Be Part Of Your Diet?

May 14, 2008
Healthy Eating Guidelines tell us that we must reduce the fats we take on board but what exactly does that mean, and how can we do it? We have to make a distinction between body fat and dietary fat. However thin we are we all have body fat and it is essential to protect our body's organs and helps control body temperature as well as providing energy for our muscles. Body fat is produced as a result of the dietary fats that we eat as well as from the proteins and carbohydrates in our diet if we eat more than our body requires. It is also necessary to carry some of the fat soluble vitamins around the body. However much we need though it should only be taken in moderate amounts.

As well as the foods that would normally be associated with fats they are also present in foods such as fruits and beans, though in small quantities. They occur naturally in most foods, but more troublesome are the fats that are added in such things as pies, pastries, crisps and some fast foods. Saturated fats are those which are generally solid at room temperature, unsaturated fats are generally more liquid, and are generally assumed to be a better form of fats.

It is perfectly possible to cut down on the amount of dietary fats without sacrificing all the foods that we enjoy. One of the easiest ways is to reduce the amount of fats used in cooking or as a spread. Softer, spreadable butters and polyunsaturated margarines have less saturated fats and are easily available. Oils are also better than animal fats for cooking but do be aware that many oils labelled 'vegetable' often have coconut or palm oil in them - and they are high in saturated fats. Sunflower, corn and olive oils are best.

Dairy products are an essential part of the diet and are especially important for children but they do contain saturated fats. However by using semi-skimmed or skimmed milk the amount of fat can be reduced to almost zero. Skimmed milk is often enriched with vitamins. There are also some very good cream alternatives, available as both single (light) or double (heavy) which can be used as they are or in cooking with no appreciable taste difference, but a great deal less fat. You can also use a mixture of cream and yoghurt in many dishes. There is now a great deal of choice in low fat cheeses, though they are often lacking in taste. It is often better to use less of a stronger flavoured or mature cheese when preparing a cooked dish. You will get the same flavour benefits but without the heavy saturated fat load, grating cheese is also a good way to make it go further.

All meat contains saturated fats but modern farming techniques are producing leaner meats which less fat. By choosing meat that has little visible fat around it, or marbling through it and by eating a little less, adding lots of vegetables, pulses or carbohydrates then you can still enjoy all the meats you normally would. Chicken is low in fat provided you don't eat the skin, as is fish. Oily fish should be considered an essential part of our diet, the fats it contains are high in polyunsaturated fatty acids which are good for health.

By applying these few simple healthy eating guidelines you can still enjoy all the foods you like, even those that contain fats and would normally be considered less than healthy - in moderation!
About the Author
Annie Horthorne grew up in the catering business and has always been an enthusiastic and highly regarded cook. She has a special interest in healthy eating and how to make it tasty and fun. Annie's delicious healthy eating recipes can be found at The Healthy Eating Guide
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