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The Facts on Fat

Por Eleazar Lara-Pantin, MD, MSc.* -

It's well known that many health problems linked to nutrition are also related to eating excessive amounts of fat. But, what's the skinny on fat?

The good

For starters, fat is a very important nutrient that must be an integral part of your daily diet. Besides being a concentrated source of energy, which in itself justifies its moderate consumption, fat also transports essential nutrients. Case in point: fatty acids transport vitamins A, D, E, and K.

Internationally accepted dietary guidelines suggest that 25 to 30% of your daily calories should come from fat. The above-mentioned essential fatty acids are one type of fat that must actually be ingested, because your body is not capable of producing it.
Consider the following to ensure a healthy fat intake:
· Be careful when selecting the type of fat you consume.
· Remember that the proportions of essential fatty acids vary from food to food.
· Use vegetable oils, and only those that indicate on their label that they have similar proportions of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids.

The bad

The problems linked to the consumption of fat are defined by two elements: the total amount of fat consumed in a day and the quality of that fat. The recommendation of consuming 25-30% of daily calories from fat is aimed, on one hand, to ensure the minimum consumption required and, on the other, to avoid any excesses. Undoubtedly, consuming more than 30% of your daily calories from fat significantly increases the risk of suffering from chronic illnesses--major causes of death around the globe--due to either a growth of fat deposits throughout the body or to the infiltration of fat into the artery walls.

You must also look out for the quality of the fats that you consume. Be careful to select food that will allow your body to receive the mono- and polyunsaturated fatty acids it needs. This will also help you avoid consuming undesirable amounts of cholesterol. Although everybody needs polyunsaturated fatty acids to lead a healthy life, if you consume too much it may affect your immunological response, which determines nothing more than your body’s capacity to defend itself from harmful agents.

A motto to remember . . .

You shouldn’t completely eliminate fat from your daily diet; it is unhealthy to live without it. Accept that you need fat in adequate amounts and learn to handle the key nutrition principles. These principles can be summarized as follows:
· Strive for variety when selecting foods.
· Use prudence when cooking them.
· Seek moderation when eating.

*Dr. Lara-Pantin, a nutrition specialist, is Vice President of Product Development for DrTango, Inc.


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