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Small Bites

Issue 4, May 2007

The Fat Of The Matter

Don’t judge a nutrient by its name! Fat is not only necessary for good health -- it’s
also a weight management VIP.

Such a diet would also be pretty impossible to pull

off since fat isn’t just in “fatty” foods. For exam-
ple, apart from fruit -- which is pure carbohydrate –
everything has some amount of fat. A cup of pep-
pers, for example, provides 0.3 grams. Practically
nothing, but it goes to show just how important and
prevalent a nutrient it is.

Fat is calorically dense, meaning it provides concen-

trated calories (a high number in a small amount).
Unlike protein and carbohydrates, which clock in at
four calories per gram (FYI, one gram is approxi-
mately equal to 28 ounces), fat provides nine calo-
WHAT IS FAT? ries per gram.

A controversial and often misunderstood nutrient, fat THE FAT FAMILY

is absolutely necessary in our diets.
The fats we eat can be classified into five catego-
Many hormones -- including testosterone and estro- ries: saturated, monounsaturated, polyunsatu-
gen -- need fat in order to be produced, and the ab- rated, trans, and cholesterol. Our blood also con-
sorption of vitamins A, D, E, and K would not be tains a fat known as triglycerides.
possible without this nutrient. Attempting a diet
without a single gram of fat would result in seri- What’s with all the saturation references? Simply
ous health consequences, including vitamin defi- put, a fat’s degree of saturation tells us a little bit
ciencies. about its chemical composition. Saturated fats are
completely surrounded by hydrogen atoms, whereas

strokes, high total and bad cholesterol, breast
unsaturated one contain less. Let’s take a look at
what each of these fats mean for your health. cancer, hypertension, and, recent studies are sug-
gesting, even Crohn’s and Alzheimer’s disease.
The least healthy of fats, it’s found mostly -- and
in substantial amounts -- in animal products, Monounsaturated fats have one (“mono”) double
ranging from meat to whole milk dairy to butter. bond in their chemical composition and are excellent
for maintaining good cardiovascular health.
Sources include avocados, nuts, and olive and
peanut oils. When reading a food label, this is one
fat you actually want to see higher amounts of!


Trans fats are the only artificial man-made fat,

produced by taking an unsaturated fat and partially
hydrogenating it (adding more hydrogens, but not so
many to make it a fully saturated fat).

What’s the point? Trans fats are a food company’s

dream, since they slow down spoilage and, there-
High intakes of this type of fat have been linked fore, can keep a box of cookies at room temperature
to increased levels of bad and total cholesterol as safe to eat for 12 months.
well as an increased risk of developing hard
plaque formations in our artery walls.


Polyunsaturated fats have many (“poly”) double

bonds in their chemical structure. Omega 3 fats –
the hot new “it” nutrient found in fish, flaxseed,
and walnuts-- are a type of polyunsaturated fat.
To be clear, all Omega 3’s are polyunsaturated, but
not all polyunsaturated fats are Omega 3’s (some are
Omega 6’s).

You might have seen or heard Omega 3’s referred to Frying oils not withstanding, pastries
as EFA’s (essential fatty acids). Remember, in nutri- and commercially packaged sweets sit-
tion ‘essential’ means our bodies are unable to pro- ting on box shelves are the biggest
duce that nutrient, so we need to get it from food. culprits behind trans-fat consumption.

Omega 3’s are an excellent way of reducing our

risk of developing atherosclerosis, heart attacks,


Starting in January of 2006, all food labels had to There are four types of cholesterol, but the two you
display the amount of trans fats in their product. want to think about are low density (LDL) and high
This scared many companies, who, fearing tumbling density (HDL). The four variations combined make
stock shares, pretty much changed their food formu- up what is known as your total cholesterol.
las overnight to do away with their use of trans fats.
LDL is the bad (or "lame") cholesterol. What's so
This does not mean we are in a trans fat-free world. bad about it? Well, the higher your LDL choles-
You need to always be a smart shopper. If you see a terol, the higher your risk of strokes, heart at-
food label that lists 0 grams of trans fat but tacks, and blood clots.
somewhere on the ingredient list you see the
words “partially hydrogenated oil”, your “Small Why is this? LDL cholesterol ends up being depos-
Bites” radar should go off. ited on the walls of our arteries, where it turns into
hard plaque and restricts blood flow.
Turns out the law mandates that if a product has
less than 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving, the
manufacturer can get away with stating there are
ZERO grams of trans fat in that serving.

Half a gram of trans fat may seem like nothing, but

we shouldn’t be consuming more than 2 grams of
these artificial monsters a day. So, 3 servings of a
food containing .4 grams of trans fat per serving
adds up to 1.2 grams, despite the label’s “zero grams
of trans fat” claims. Remember, ALWAYS READ

What’s so bad about trans fats? A quick glance at

countless clinical research trails reveals an un-
questionable link between high trans fat con-
sumption and high bad and total cholesterol,
clogging of arteries, and significant increase in the
risk of developing strokes, heart attacks, and cer-
tain cancers. HDL is the good (or "healthy") cholesterol that
helps prevent plaque deposits by taking them to
CHOLESTEROL the liver for processing and removal when it spots
Our livers and cells produce about 80% of our
body's cholesterol, a precursor to hormones like es- If your body were a town, LDL would be the litter-
trogen and testosterone and necessary for producing bugs and HDL would be the sanitation workers.
vitamin D out of the sunlight that hits our skin. That
being said, cholesterol is not essential (meaning it is Now, it is true that genes play a somewhat significant
not necessary to get additional amounts from our role in this. Some people -- no matter how healthy
diet). they eat -- have high levels of LDL, while others


can go through life eating junk and still boast Back to the nutrition factor. Going low-fat is NOT
high HDL numbers. the answer to lowering your cholesterol. Rather, you
want to go smart-fat. Monounsaturated fats (found
in olive oil, walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, avoca-
dos, and flaxseed) are helpful at maintaining our
good cholesterol levels (a low-fat diet can actually
lower it). Remember, the goal isn't just to lower bad
cholesterol, but to increase the good one, too.

When it comes to total cholesterol, you ideally

want a number below 200. If you are between the
200 and 240 mark, you are in the "caution" zone.
Anything above 240 is cause for concern.

When it comes to HDL (the "good cholesterol" that

takes extra cholesterol lingering around in places

Although the drug companies where it shouldn't be back to the liver for process-
would love for all us to be on statins ing), you want as high a number as possible. Any-
(cholesterol-lowering medication) thing below 40 is low (and indicates a higher risk of
like Lipitor, the majority of us can developing heart disease), whereas a number be-
alter our cholesterol profiles with
tween 40 and 60 is OK. For maximum heart-healthy
benefits, though, you want a number above 60.

Let's get this straight once and for all. It is not cho- Onto the "bad cholesterol" (LDL). You definitely
lesterol in foods that raises our bad cholesterol, want this low, since high numbers up the risk of
but saturated fat, found only in animal products heart attacks and strokes.
(except those that are non-fat). So, when a package
of bread boasts a "cholesterol-free" label on it, you Less than 100? Perfection! Between 100 and 130?
can reply back, "well, duh!" and dismiss it as semi- You're still in safe territory. If you are between
130 and 160, consider yourself warned. If between
dishonest marketing rather than groundbreaking nu-
tritional information. 160 and 190, you are just a few numbers away
from real trouble. If your LDL is above 190, this
So how do you lower cholesterol? Physical activ- is a threat to your cardiovascular health that
ity is a must, but when it comes to food, your best needs to be addressed.
weapon is soluble fiber (found in fruits, vegeta-
bles, nuts, and oatmeal), which bundles up and
flushes out excess cholesterol. A type of fat found in our bloodstream, high triglyc-
eride levels have been linked with the hardening
(Note: physical activity does not have to mean a -- and narrowing -- of arteries. Let’s quickly re-
busy gym or loud spinning class. Simply increasing view what this means.
the distance you walk every day is enough to have an
effect on your cholesterol levels).

The harder and narrower our arteries, the more Knowing these numbers is important, as it enables
restricted our bloodflow. The more restricted our you to have a reference point.
bloodflow, the higher our blood pressure and risk
of developing blood clots. The higher our risk of
blood clots, the higher our risk of heart attacks
and strokes.

Despite what many people -- even professionals in

the medical field -- say, triglyceride levels are only
affected by refined carbohydrate intake.

In other words, it’s not so much butter that is to

blame for high triglycerides, but those two slices of
refined white-flour bread you are putting the butter



The 30 percent rule is a good standard to go by.

Take the amount of calories you need each day When you realize that a large order of
fries at McDonald’s sets you back 30
(i.e.: 2,400) and calculate no more than 30% of
grams of fat, of which six are saturated,
those calories coming from fat.
you might instead opt for the small size,
which provides 13 grams of fat, of which
Let’s do the math together. 30% of 2,400 calories = 2.6 are saturated.
800 calories.

“OK, but how much fat is that?” some of you might Better yet, if you share a small size with someone,
be asking. you’re only getting 6.5 grams of fat and 1.3 grams of
saturated fat!
This is how you figure it out. 800 calories divided
by 9 calories per gram of fat = 89 grams of fat. As mentioned above, trans fat consumption should
There is your recommended maximum daily in- not exceed 2 grams a day, no matter how many
take. calories you are taking in. That being said, our
bodies do not need trans fats, so you can go without
We aren’t done yet, though. The second good rule them for the rest of your life without a single prob-
to have in mind is that OF these 89 grams, no lem.
more than 10% should come from saturated fats.
That means that someone taking in 2,400 calories a
day should be getting no more than 9 grams of satu- So how do you go about your day making sure you
rated fat 89 grams divided by 10 = 8.9). get the necessary amount of dietary fat to keep your
body running while making choices that are also
heart healthy? Take a look at these examples.


Grilled chicken breast (4 ounces) Venti Latte (Whole Milk)

3.8 grams fat, 1.1 grams saturated fat 18 g fat, 11g saturated fat

Accompany it with brown rice, steamed veggies, or a I understand some people don’t like the taste of
salad to keep your saturated fat total low. skim milk with their coffee. If that describes your
situation, order a tall whole milk latte instead.
You’ll save yourself 7.2 grams of fat and 4.4
grams of fat of saturated fat!
McDonald’s Grilled Chicken Breast Sandwich
10 g fat, 2 g saturated fat

Getting medium fries with that? Ok, add on:

20 g fat, 4 g saturated fat, 5.4 g trans fats

* * * *


Guacamole (2 tablespoons)
3.8 g fat, 0.6 g saturated fat


Salsa con Queso dip (2 tablespoons)

4 g fat, 1.5 g saturated fat You’re also better off holding off on a
pastry to accompany that coffee. A
Some of you might look at these figures and think, Starbucks blueberry muffin adds on 16
“wow, the cheese isn’t THAT much more bad than grams of fat, of which 10 are saturated!
the guacamole”.

However, consider that while 2 tablespoons of

guacamole give you 3.2 grams of unsaturated That means a Venti whole milk latte and a blue-
(healthy) fat, the cheese dip provides 25% less berry muffin add up to 34 grams of fat and 21
heart-friendly fats and 150% more artery- grams of saturated fat (more than a Big Mac!)
clogging saturated fat.
* * * *
* * * *

Vegetarian (kidney beans, chickpeas, black beans)
Starbucks Venti Latte (Nonfat Milk) chili (1 cup)
0 g fat, 0 g saturated fat 1.5 g fat, 0.5 g saturated fat



Beef chili (1 cup) Alfredo sauce (½ cup)

11.3 g fat, 4.5 g saturated fat 22 g fat, 10 g saturated fat

* * * * * * * *


Olive oil (2 tablespoons) Chipotle chicken and bean burrito without stan-
24 g fat, 3.7 g saturated fat dard sour cream (2 ounces) and cheese (1 ounce)
RED LIGHT 27 g fat, 6.5 g saturated fat

Butter (2 tablespoons)
24 g fat, 14.6 saturated fat EVEN REDDER LIGHT!!

This is why it’s so important to know about -- and

understand -- the different types of fats. Although
both offer the same grams of total fat (and thus
the same amount of calories), the olive oil con-
tains much less of the saturated kind.

* * * *


Salmon cucumber sushi roll (6 pieces)

5.8 g fat, .8 g saturated fat

Chipotle chicken and bean bur-
Shrimp Tempura roll (6 pieces)
rito with sour cream and cheese:
13 g fat, 2.5 g saturated fat
46 g fat, 19.5 g saturated fat
* * * *


Marinara sauce (½ cup) Omega 3’s are the new whole grains. It seems like
5g fat, 1g saturated fat every day more and more products boast the addition
of “Omega 3 fatty acids”.


Although most people think that just taking in and seaweed, whereas Omega-6’s are abundant in
more Omega 3’s is sufficient to improve cardio- corn oil, soybean oil, sesame oil, sunflower seeds,
vascular health, it’s not that simple. whole grains, peanuts, wheat germ, etc.

Too much Omega 6 and not enough Omega 3 can

cause a variety of problems, including high blood
pressure and a higher risk of forming blood clots.

So, rather than just making the goal of eating

more Omega 3’s, think more along the lines of re-
placing (ie: add flaxseed, rather than wheat germ
to cereals and smoothies, replace some of the al-
monds in homemade trail mix with walnuts and
pumpkin seeds, etc).

Some interesting current research suggests re-

placing some Omega-6 fats with small amounts of
saturated fats in order to lower the Omega 6 to
Omega 3 ratio.
In order for the Omega 3’s in foods
like salmon and olive oil to do their
For instance, say you hate walnuts, but you are still
heart-protective work, you need to si-
looking to reduce your Omega 6 intake. One solu-
multaneously lower your Omega 6 in-
take. tion would be to replace soybeans or sunflower seeds
in your trail mix with an ounce of chocolate in order
to reduce the Omega 6’s.
If we have too much Omega 6 in our diets, Omega 3
is unable to do its duties. MAKING SENSE OF SALMON

In fact, research has shown that the ideal Omega 3 Salmon is often touted as one of the best sources of
to Omega 6 ratio should be 1 to 5. The average Omega-3 fatty acids, mainly because it contains
ratio of an adult in the United State? 1 to 25! The some of the best quality omega 3’s (there is no such
sad part is that 100 hundred years ago, we were at a thing as a “bad” omega 3, but fish oils are the supe-
1 to 3 ratio, but drastic changes in our diets have rior type of Omega 3).
turned that figure on upside down.
Here’s how it works though. Sea creatures aren’t
How is this so? Our diets are abundant in Omega 6’s just naturally born with lots of Omega-3 fatty ac-
– most of the cooking and oils we consume are high ids. Rather, they produce them by eating sea
in Omega 6’s. plants. Or, in the case of larger fish, by eating
smaller species that eat sea plants.
Remember, omega 3’s are found in high quantities
in olive oil as well as fish (tuna, salmon, ancho- This is why fish is the only meat that provides
vies, sardines, herring, etc), flaxseed, hemp oil, Omega-3. Cows, chickens, and turkeys are certainly
pumpkin seeds, walnuts, spinach, broccoli, kale, not eating seaweed or any other bottom of the sea

Here is the problem. There are different types of This is why it is SO IMPORTANT to know the
salmon. On the one hand, you have the wild kind, source of your seafood. Farmed seafood is very
which is caught in the ocean, where these salmon different from its wild counterpart. Don’t get me
produce Omega 3’s by eating the plant life under the wrong – salmon is still a great source of protein and
sea. certain minerals whether it’s farmed or not.
However, when it comes to the impressive Omega 3
You also have farmed salmon, wherein hundreds of profile of salmon (and other seafood), you can forget
these fish are crowded into aquatic feedlots. about it if your dinner is coming from a feedlot and
not the ocean itself.
Guess what? They aren’t being given sea plants
to eat. Rather, they are fed grain (to fatten them Luckily, there are laws and regulations requiring that
up) and antibiotics (they are in such close quarters seafood sold at supermarkets be labeled with country
that they are very likely to get sick, so farmers throw of origin and whether or not it is wild or farmed, so
antibiotics in the water as ‘insurance’). Hence, they you a least have a say.
aren’t a source of Omega 3 fatty acids.
It gets worse, I’m afraid. Wild salmon gets its
beautiful pink hue from its diet. Farmed salmon? Olive oil is a great source of heart-healthy monoun-
From pellets! saturated fat. However, much like with salmon, all
olive oil is not created equal.
There is actually a patented chart called a “salmo
fan” (pictured below), which displays a variety of The research is solid – olive oil is a great fat, espe-
shades of pink. The farmer chooses the color he cially because it contains Omega 3’s.
would like his salmon to have, drops some pellets
into the water and voila, his salmon take on that Here is the catch. The large majority of those
color! They are essentially eating dye. studies have been done on freshly pressed extra
virgin olive oil. “Extra virgin” is the highest quality
olive oil, since it is the product of the first press of
the olives. To get this qualification, actually, olive
oil has to adhere to certain chemical traits (including
a certain level of acidity).

Most of the olive oil available in supermarkets,

though, was pressed 12 to 18 months ago.

It just so happens that, with time, the heart-healthy

properties in olive oil start to dissipate. Bright
light makes them dissipate even more. So, when
you’re buying olive oil at the supermarket, you are
talking about something that has been bottled for
about a year and a half and has spent most of that
time under bright fluorescent lights.

These two factors are nutrient zappers!

on Sunday and having enough to last you a few days
So what can you do? A few things. First of all, buy of the week.
olive oil in metal containers, where it is shielded
from light. This will be a big step towards main- 2 cans of diced tomatoes (I prefer petite-cut, low-
taining its health properties for longer periods of sodium with added jalapeno peppers)
time. 8 garlic cloved, finely chopped
1 small red onion, finely chopped
1 red pepper, cut into small chunks
1 green pepper, cut into small chunks
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 can low-sodium chickpeas
1 can low-sodium kidney beans
1 cup frozen corn
Salt-free chili powder (to taste)
Hot/spicy paprika (to taste)
OPTIONAL: crumbled soy meat

Secondly, look for a “harvest date” on your olive

oil bottle. The more recent, the better. Similarly,
keep an eye out for an expiration date. The later it
expires, the more recent the oil.

Be mindful that exposure to air also negatively af-

fects olive oil. So, if you have a few tablespoons’
worth left over in a large bottle, pour the contents
into a small container.

MONTH Heat the olive oil over low heat in a medium pot.
Add the chopped garlic and onions and simmer on
VEGETARIAN CHILI (Serves 4) for a few minutes. Add diced tomatoes, stir, and let
sit for 5 minutes. Add peppers, beans, corn, and
I created this recipe last year and it has become one soymeat. Stir well and cook at high heat for 10 min-
of my staples (and most requested dishes). utes. Add spices to taste. Enjoy!
Recommended side dishes: whole wheat cous
It is extremely easy to make and does very well as a cous, brown rice, or quinoa.
reheated dish, so I recommend making a large batch

salad, or throwing in some walnuts or avocado, is


a great thing!

MONTH A low-fat diet might call for absolutely no added fat

to a salad and fat-free dressing. Again, though, just
because something is fat-free does NOT make it
LOW-FAT DIETS calorie-free. Fat-free dressings still have carbo-
hydrates, which contain calories.
One of my biggest pet-peeves is when all types of fat
are blindly thrown into into the “bad for you” bag. Thus, low-fat diets often result in eating calories
As you now know, some types are beneficial and that do not help fill you up. An hour later, you
help keep our heart and cardiovascular systems are still hungry.
in tip-top shape.
In fact, studies have shown that people who regu-
However, millions of people have bought into the larly consume nuts (high in protein, fiber, and fat)
“fat equals bad” belief , thinking that in order to keep end up having an easier time losing and keeping
the pounds off, all you have to do is avoid it. weight off because they feel satisfied for hours.

This was the dominant theory in the 1990s, which Many people also erroneously think low-fat diets are
resulted in the production of Snackwell’s low-fat great ways to improve their blood lipid profile.
cookies. However, as you just read, certain fats actually
HELP lower bad cholesterol.
Presented with the option of low-fat seets and treats,
people thought, “I can eat half the box if it’s low And, as far as triglycerides go, despite being a type
fat!”, forgetting that low-fat does not necessarily of blood fat, it is refined carbohydrates (added sugars
mean low calories. Without the fat, people didn’t and processed flours) that raise their levels. Thus,
feel full as quickly as they did the regular fatty avoiding salmon and instead having white rice and
versions of these sweets. Next thing they knew, vegetables for dinner every night will have the oppo-
they had downed more calories than they would site effect of what many people desire!
have had those cookies been richer.
I think a low-fat diet makes sense in two contexts.
First, if you have been placed on a low-fat diet by
a medical professional due to a health condition,
you must follow it.

Second, if you are looking to shed two or three

pounds for a wedding or party, I wouldn’t have a
problem with a low-fat, low-calorie diet that lasts
just a week, as long as it includes plenty of fresh
fruits, vegetables, non fat dairy, and whole gains.

Remember, fat is one of three components that

help us feel full (protein and fiber being the other
two). This is why drizzling some olive oil over a


In conclusion, long-term
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