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Fats: the good, the bad, and the truly awful

The Institute of Food Technology tells us how much fat is too much, and what is the right kind of fat to eat.

health and fitness Updated: Nov 22, 2010 17:54 IST

Trans fat, unsaturated fat, saturated fat - you likely already know that all fats are not created equal. But how much fat is too much, and what is the right kind of fat to eat? To help demystify fats, The Institute of Food Technology (IFT), an international food science nonprofit organization, released a video on November 15 detailing the "skinny truth about fats."

"Up to 30 percent of our daily calories should come from fat, with unsaturated fats making up the majority of that percentage," said Dr. Susan Berkow, adjunct professor at George Mason University in the US in an announcement on the IFT website. Unsaturated fats, considered "good" fats, are found in olive or canola oils, salmon, tuna, almonds, and walnuts.


Saturated fat is found in animal products, such as meats, cheeses, and butter. While it's best to limit your saturated fat consumption as much as possible, a little can go a long way at a meal, helping you to feel full and avoid snacking between meals. Also, this year new research suggests that saturated fat may not be as bad as once thought: a study published this March found no link between saturated fat and increased risk in heart disease and strokes.

The ugly fat is trans fat, most often found in processed foods and best if avoided completely. Used by food manufacturers to produce long shelf life and good flavor in packaged foods, trans fat has been linked to elevated LDL (bad) cholesterol that can lead to heart attack and stroke.

The IFT advises to watch your labels: consume no more than 65 grams of fat per day in a 2,000 calorie a day diet. Look for good sources of plant-based unsaturated fat, especially those containing omega-3 or omega-6 fatty acids, such as flaxseeds and walnuts.

How to avoid fat-overload at holiday parties? "Eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables with low-fat dips such as low-fat yogurt or humus," advised Berkow. "Dip your whole-grain bread in olive oil seasoned with garlic or basil, rather than in butter. Try new vegetables such as jicama, which is great for dipping."

First Published: Nov 22, 2010 17:29 IST