Fat is an important part of a healthy diet.  Every single cell in our bodies has its own protective skin that is made out of fat.  Our body makes several fat-based hormones that are important for maintaining blood pressure, building muscle mass, and supporting a balanced metabolism.

There are a number of different kinds of fats in our food, and each one serves a slightly different purpose once it gets into our system.  Today we’ll talk about two main categories of fats: saturated and unsaturated.

Unsaturated fats are found mainly in plant foods such as nuts, avocados, and vegetable oils.  Fish is also a source of unsaturated fats.

Saturated fats are found mainly in animal foods such as meat and dairy.

An ideal diet has way more unsaturated (plant) fats than saturated (animal) fats.  Ten percent or less of your total fat intake should come from saturated fats.  In terms of a standard 2000 calorie/day diet that is just over 7 grams per day, which is about 1 Tablespoon of butter.  Eating a diet that is very high in saturated fat can increase your cholesterol and put you at risk for heart disease.

Here’s an easy way to remember this concept:  the less legs your fat source has, the healthier it is to eat!

  • Cows and pigs = 4 legs = Eat these less often
  • Chickens and turkeys = 2 legs = Eat these a little more often
  • Fish = No legs = Eat often
  • Vegetables = No legs = Eat often

I used this analogy with a client last year.  Afterwards we were discussing a jar of peanut butter.  I asked her how many legs a peanut has and she (rightfully) looked at me like I was insane.

Trans fats are another kind of fat you may have heard about.  We’ll talk about why it’s good to avoid these in tomorrow’s post.

Omega 3 fatty acids are a specific type of unsaturated fat.  We’ll talk about why they’re so hot right now in the post after that!

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