Diabetes and Lipid Clinic of Alaska



Fats & Oils

Fats occur naturally in food and play an important role in nutrition. Fats and oils provide a concentrated source of energy for the body. Fats are used to store energy in the body, insulate body tissues, and transport fat soluble vitamins through the blood. They also enhance food flavor, adding mouth feel, make baked goods tender, and conduct heat during cooking.

Not All Fats Are Equal

Fats and oils are made up of basic units called fatty acids. Each type of fat or oil is a different mixture of fatty acids.

  • Saturated Fatty Acids are mainly found in animal foods such as meat and poultry, whole or reduced fat milk, and butter. Some vegetable oils like coconut, palm kernel oil, and palm oil are saturated. Saturated fats are usually solid at room temperature.
  • Monosaturated Fatty Acids are mainly found in vegetable oils such as canola, olive and peanut oils. They are liquid at room temperature.
  • Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids are mainly found in vegetable oils such as safflower, sunflower, corn, flaxseed, and canola oils. Polyunsaturated fats are also the main fats found in seafood. They are liquid or soft at room temperature Specific polyunsaturated fatty acids, such as linoleic acid and alpha-linolenic acids, are also called essential fatty acids. They are necessary for cell structure and making
    hormones. Essential fatty acids must be obtained from foods we choose.
  • Trans Fatty Acids are formed when vegetable oils are processed into margarine or shortening. Sources of trans fats in the diet include snack foods and baked goods made with partially hydrogenated vegetable oil or vegetable shortening. Trans fat also occur naturally in some animal products such as dairy products.
  • Omega-3 Fatty Acids help to make the blood less sticky, so it is less likely to form clots which contribute to heart attacks. Omega-3 also helps the nervous system development and can keep the immune system from attacking the body’s joints in arthritis. Omega-S fatty acid is found in all fish, but is higher in fatty fish like salmon, tuna, mackerel, sardines and herring. It is also found in green leafy vegetables, nuts, canola oil, soybean oil and tofu. The amount of Omega-S needed to help all of these conditions is still unclear, but it a good start would be to eat 2-3 fish meals a week, along with lots of green vegetables

Cholesterol is Different

Blood (serum) cholesterol and dietary cholesterol are two different types of cholesterol Dietary cholesterol is found in food of animal origin such as egg yolks, organ meats, and full fat dairy products. Blood cholesterol is a waxy substance, which occurs naturally in our body. It is used to make hormones such as estrogen and testosterone, and bile, which is needed for digestion. But if the level of cholesterol in the blood is too high, cholesterol and other fats can stick to the artery walls.

Research Says...

  • Eating too many foods high in saturated fat may increase blood levels of LDL (bad cholesterol and total cholesterol. High blood levels of LDL and total cholesterol are risk factors for heart disease.
  • Eating foods high in Monosaturated fatty acids may help lower LDL cholesterol levels and decrease the risk of heart disease. Eating polyunsaturated fats in place of saturated fats decreases LDL cholesterol levels.
  • Trans fatty acids act like saturated fats and raise LDL cholesterol levels. They may also lower HDL cholesterol.

Fat and Cholesterol: Know Your Limits

The guidelines for fat intake are well known: for healthy Americans, consume no more than 30%of total calories from fat. The “30%” guideline means:

  • 7-10% of total calories from saturated fats
  • About 10-15% of total calories from monosaturated fats, and about 10% from polyunsaturated fats.

Americans should limit their cholesterol intake to less than 300 milligrams per day. Knowing your limits includes eating healthly. Suggestions include:

  • Include 5 or more servings of fruits and vegetables each day.
  • Base your meals on whole grains, beans, and legumes, or a 4 ounce portion of lean meat or poultry without the skin, and 2-3 servings of low-fat or fat-free dairy products each day.
  • Limit your intake of sweets, and other high-fat foods
  • Avoid processed foods
  • Choose the type of fats and oils you eat carefully.

The information on this Web page is provided for educational purposes. You understand and agree that this information is not intended to be, and should not be used as, a substitute for medical treatment by a health care professional. You agree that Diabetes and Lipid Clinic of Alaska is not making a diagnosis of your condition or a recommendation about the course of treatment for your particular circumstances through the use of this Web page. You agree to be solely responsible for your use of information contained on this Web page

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