Image
French Fries

The Fast Facts about Fats

Why is that so often the most enjoyable foods are the unhealthiest? Deserts, French fries, and pizza may taste completely different, but they share a common nutrient: fat.

Fats, along with carbohydrates and protein, are the nutrients you use in the largest amount. They are the components in food that we need for energy and to maintain the body’s structure and systems.

Fats are why foods like bacon or porkchops taste good. But the tastiest fats are the fats you want to steer clear of.

Not all fat is good for you. Some are great and they promote heart health. Others contribute to the buildup of cholesterol and can lead to heart disease or diabetes. But how do you know which fats are healthy, and which can lead to health problems?

Bacon Cooking in Oil

The Difference in Fats

The fats we eat are called dietary fats. You can find them in nearly everything except most fruits and vegetables.

There are two main kinds: saturated and unsaturated.
 

  • Saturated fat keeps its shape at room temperature. You find it in butter, full-fat cheese, high-fat meat, lard, whole milk, and full-fat yogurt.
  • Unsaturated fat is usually liquid at room temperature. It’s in fish, nuts, and vegetable oils.

The American Heart Association recommends limiting the number of calories from saturated fat to less than 7% a day. That’s because it tends to raise low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels which can increase the risk of stroke or heart disease.

Food companies will add what are called “trans” fats to foods for flavor. Some trans fat occurs naturally in very small amounts in red meat and dairy products. You are likely to find it in baked and fried foods.

Guacamole and a Halved Avocado

Unsaturated Fat

This is the good stuff. Eating foods high in unsaturated fats improves cholesterol levels, reducing your risk of heart attack or stroke.

The two main types of unsaturated fat are:
 

  • Monounsaturated fat — Found in canola, olive, peanut, sunflower, and safflower oils, avocados, most nuts and peanut butter. You will also find it in beef, chicken, and pork.
  • Polyunsaturated fat — Found in corn, cottonseed, soybean, and sunflower oil, along with flaxseed, pine nuts, pumpkin, sesame, and sunflower seeds, and walnuts.

Omega-3 fatty acid in another polyunsaturated fat. It’s been shown to reduce blood clotting and reduce irregular heartbeats. It’s found in fatty fish like herring, salmon, and sardines.

Woman Smiling as She Unpacks Fruits and Vegetables

Make a Change

Remember, not all fat is bad, but you want to be smart about the fat you eat. There are some simple ways to swap out the saturated fat for foods rich in unsaturated fat.
 

  • Switch to oil instead of butter for sauteing. Use canola oil instead of butter when you bake.
  • Eat salmon two to three times a week instead of red meat.
  • Take the skin and fat off chicken.
  • Snack on fruits and vegetables instead of pre-packaged, processed foods.

We Can Help Put You on a Healthier Path

No matter your age, what you eat has a huge effect on your overall health. Healthy eating isn’t hard – especially when you have someone to empower you to make good decisions and teach you how healthy food can be delicious. Our registered dietitians provide individually tailored nutrition plans to members of every age.

Patients with the following are encouraged to see a dietitian: diabetes, heart-related conditions, those considering bariatric surgery, pregnancy, gastrointestinal-related conditions, and patients with any other nutrition-related condition.

This program is available to all AltaMed patients at no cost. Ask your doctor for a referral or call (888) 499-9303 to enroll.

Sign Up for COVID-19 Updates

Sign up to receive email updates on the information that matters to you and those you love.

Sign Up Now

Image
Adult Eating Better Digestion

Fueling up for Maximum Health

Your body is a spectacular example of bioengineering genius. It is the human equivalent of a finely tuned, world-class automobile.

At least, that’s what it was intended to be. Finely tuned, world-class automobiles also require proper maintenance (regular check-ups) and the right fuel (diet).

Your digestive system is the equivalent of the fuel system on a car. High-octane fuel goes in and the fuel injectors get that gas through the engine, burning at peak efficiency for either the greatest gas mileage or highest level of performance.

If your fuel is garbage, your car slows down and you reduce the efficiency of the whole machine. It’s the same with how you fuel your body. Highly processed foods like fast food, chips, snacks, canned foods, and foods with added sugars will kill the good bacteria that work to keep you at your best.

Child Eating

Gut Basics

Between your mouth and anus are 30 feet of tubing that moves everything you consume by mouth through your body. Along the way that food and drink is broken down and absorbed into your blood stream as fuel. Whatever isn’t absorbed is eliminated as waste.

Given the twists and turns along that route, it’s common for some problems to arise. Conditions like acid reflux or irritable bowel syndrome affect as many as 70 million Americans. Stress and genetics play a factor in those conditions, but so do poor sleep habits, a lack of fiber, how often you eat, when you eat, and not drinking enough water.

Some things you can do to improve your gut health:

  • Eat slower — Chewing your food well can help you swallow less air and help you know when you’re full.
  • Eat smaller meals — Packing your stomach can cause reflux and slow digestion.
  • Set a cutoff time — Your digestive system works better in the morning and during the daytime, so limit eating at night.
  • Manage stress — Digestion is tougher when you’re stressed out.
  • Make it routine — Sometimes your gut reacts better to a schedule.
  • Consider probiotics — These are fermented foods like yogurt and sauerkraut which supplement your gut bacteria. Talk to your doctor.
Vegatables Better

Dietary Boosts

It might be great if there was one thing you could eat to keep your diet healthy and digestive system working the way it should. That would also be boring. Variety is the spice of life, after all. So, it’s good to know there are several foods that will help you stay healthy.

  • Beans — Black, kidney, red, and garbanzo beans are great sources of fiber. So are peas and soybeans. They are easy to add to recipes.
  • Berries — Eat them plain or add them to cereal. They’re just as nutritious frozen.
  • Fish — Eat it fresh, frozen, or canned. Salmon, tuna, herring, trout, anchovies, and sardines are all good options.
  • Leafy greens — Collard greens, spinach, kale, and mustard greens are all good sources of fiber. You can add them to soups or stews, and of course, salads.
  • Nuts — Almonds, hazelnuts, pecans, and walnuts are good sources of plant protein and healthy fats.
  • Olive oil — Use it instead of butter in recipes or when sautéing food.
  • Tomatoes — They’re high in vitamin C and can be used in salads, sauces, and soups. Just limit the ketchup which is loaded with sugar.
  • Vegetables — We’re talking about fibrous vegetables like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage, greens, radishes, and turnips. They are full of fiber and vitamins. Steam them, stir-fry them in olive oil, or buy them frozen and use them in soups and casseroles.
  • Whole grains — Whole wheat bread and oatmeal can give your gut bacteria something to break down for a while, which is good. It gives sustained energy.
  • Yogurt — Look for low-fat or no-fat. It’s rich in calcium and protein and it also has good bacteria which helps maintain gut health. You can use it as a substitute for sour cream and mayonnaise in dips.

We’re Here for You

AltaMed can help you answer questions about getting on a healthy regimen. We have registered dieticians to assist with creating a healthier diet for you. We can also help put together an exercise plan, and our Behavioral Health Services can help you with techniques to deal with stress. Learn more by calling (888) 499-9303.

Image
Healthy Foods

Foods with Surprising Health Benefits

Go ahead. Have some chocolate. Drag it through some peanut butter. Maybe wash it down with a cup of coffee.

At some point you read an article or saw a news story encouraging you to give up these foods as being unhealthy. It’s simply not true. Over-indulging in these foods — just like over-indulging in anything — can be harmful over time. But there are plenty of foods you thought you needed to avoid that you can enjoy, in moderation.

Alcohol

Drinking alcohol must be done in moderation. One alcoholic beverage a day for women and two for men may help protect from heart disease, stroke, or diabetes. But the moderate consumption must include a healthy diet and regular exercise to get the greatest benefit.

Pork

It’s lean with less saturated fat than 30 years ago. Replacing beef and chicken with pork could help you lose weight and body fat. Tenderloin is a great, lean cut.

Popcorn Bowl

Popcorn

It’s a whole grain that’s loaded with fiber, which helps fill you up and keeps you regular. It also has vitamin B, manganese, and magnesium, and antioxidants, which may protect you against disease and cell damage. Don’t drown it in butter or cover it in salt.

Avocado

They’re loaded with good fat. The kind of fat that is linked to a healthy heart and good cholesterol levels. Eating avocados regularly can help your eyes and skin and may even help with belly fat.

Raw Ground Meat on a Plate

Beef

Lean red meat with the fat trimmed away is an excellent source of protein, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B12, niacin, zinc, and iron. Eat it occasionally and in small portions and it’s been shown to lower the bad (LDL) cholesterol.

Chicken (Dark Meat)

Thighs and legs may have more fat, but they also have more minerals like iron, zinc, and selenium. There are more vitamins like A, B, and K. It’s also high in taurine, which breaks down fat and helps with inflammation and blood pressure.

Stacked Pieces of Dark Chocolate

Chocolate

Dark chocolate is the healthiest because it has the least sugar and is made mostly of cocoa and that’s where there are flavonoids. These plant chemicals may help protect against cell damage. They could also lower blood pressure, improve blood flow to the brain and heart, and make you less likely to have certain kinds of heart disease. Remember, only eat a little bit.

Eggs

They are rich in protein with a full range of B vitamins and amino acids. They also include vitamin D and selenium. They are NOT calorie dense, meaning they help you feel fuller longer.

Cup of Coffee Being Poured

Coffee

This can also be healthy when consumed in moderation. It can help reduce heart disease, help you process sugar, reduce your risk of Parkinson’s disease, help protect your liver, strengthen your DNA, reduce your risk of colon cancer, reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, and reduce your risk of stroke. Just don’t load it up with a lot of sugar and creamer.

Dairy

The full-fat variety isn’t likely to raise your risk of obesity, heart disease, stroke, or diabetes if it’s part of a balanced diet. Foods like yogurt, whole milk, and brie can be good for you. Just watch the calories or they will pile up.

Pasta Served in a Bowl

Pasta

Pasta fills you up, it’s a good source of energy, is low in salt, and low in fat. Just don’t cover it with heavy sauces. Try whole-grain pastas for an even healthier alternative.

Potato Salad

Cooled potatoes have something called “resistant starch,” which acts like fiber and can help keep you regular and your gut healthy. Potatoes — whether hot or cold — have lots of nutrients, like potassium and magnesium. Choose low-fat, low-calorie mayonnaise for potato salad.

Toasted Bread with Peanut Butter and Honey

Honey

It may be full of sugar, but it’s a natural sweetener with plenty of antioxidants to protect your cells. It’s also good for inflammation. It mixes well with the bacteria in your gut which helps with digestion. Local honey can also help with allergies.

Peanut Butter

It may have saturated fat, but it’s 80% unsaturated fat, which isn’t bad. Eating nuts or peanut butter regularly reduces the risk of heart disease or type 2 diabetes. It also has potassium. Get it unsalted for a healthier option.

Frozen Veggies

They’re affordable, convenient, and they have the same benefits as fresh vegetables. They may even be better because you can store them, so stock up when you can.

Dietician Consultations Available

No matter your age, what you eat has a huge effect on your overall health. Healthy eating isn’t hard – especially when you have someone to empower you to make good decisions and teach you how healthy food can be delicious. Our registered dietitians provide individually tailored nutrition plans to members of every age.

Patients with the following are encouraged to see a dietitian: diabetes, heart-related conditions, those considering bariatric surgery, pregnancy, gastrointestinal-related conditions, and patients with any other nutrition-related condition.

This program is available to all AltaMed patients at no cost. Ask your doctor for a referral or call (888) 499-9303 to enroll.

The Fast Facts about Fats